Roger M. Wilcox's review of

Full Metal Jacket

(First posted to Bad Movie Night in 2001 or so.)

For those of you who don't know, a "full metal jacket" isn't something you wear. It's the outer bronze covering that goes on a military bullet, to keep it from breaking apart or deforming when it hits its target. It turns a rifle into a "merciful" weapon, as getting hit with a metal-jacketed bullet will "merely" maim you instead of killing you in most cases.

Thus, in choosing Full Metal Jacket as the title of a movie, you might think that Stanley Kubrick was making a deep ironic statement, juxtaposing the horrors of war against politically-inspired attempts to make war seem "friendly", or some such. Nonsense. Kubrick named this film Full Metal Jacket as his way of saying, "Guns. Huh huh. Bang bang. Me like. Boom boom. Look at all the pretty corpses."

The first half of the movie was quite good. It performs a valuable public service. After seeing the first half of the movie, you will never ever EVER want to enlist in the military. This may save thousands of bright young people from turning their young-adulthoods over to a life of endless push-ups. The drill sargent from Space: Above and Beyond gets his brains blown out and everything.

But after the first half, things go downhill fast. The "horrors" of Vietnam consist of a marine infantry unit bungling around in a deserted town lost. The whole plot of the movie's second half is nothing more than that old, hackneyed comedy sketch about how guys never ask directions — only with a lot more gunfire. Bleah. Finally, they end up getting gunned down one by one by a sniper, whom they finally corner. It turns out to be a prostitute from the village they just left. Then the journalist hero learns the true meaning of Christmas. Well, okay, he learns that in the Vietnam war you have to shoot people, but the moral is basically the same.

My worst gripe concerns the wooden acting in the climactic scene. The cornered sniper has been wounded and is begging the marines to kill her. Our journalist hero can hear her moans of pain, and can see the flames of anger burning in his buddies' eyes for the fallen comrades she's just killed. And what does he do? He puts on his dullest poker face and drones, "We can't just leave her like this." I mean he DRONES it. Gah. Not a twinge of nervousness or conflict or fear or hate in him or anything.

Movies like Full Metal Jacket and Platoon always seem to center around a hero who comes into the Vietnam war all moralistic and virtuous and ends up falling into despair. Okay. We get the message. The Vietnam war was horrible. We know. You can stop sending sweet little patriotic boys off to lose their innocence. The plot's getting old and predictable. In fact, considering the amount of TIME it takes for the heroes in these films to stop being perky rah-rah snotfaces, it almost makes the Vietnam war seem LESS horrifying. At least Apocalypse Now, for all its overbearing Francis Ford Coppola-ness, jumps into the war with everybody ALREADY clinically insane, like they should be.

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