Behind Enemy Lines (1997)

On this episode of Can This Friendship Be Saved?, Weston and Jones are more than best friends, they’re comrades-in-arms! And on a secret two man special op to secure nuclear triggers before they can fall into the hands of the evil General Nguy, who isn’t our brand of militaristic thug because he’s from Vietnam!

Vietnam? Is this another John Rambo or James Braddock situation where we finally win in Vietnam, busting POWs out of grimy, sweaty cells, blowing up bamboo huts and taking sweet, sweet vengeance on the sadistic general who runs the camp and delights in torturing our captured boys? Pretty much. But we’re only rescuing one guy and later on, our hero’s nosy and annoying sister. And instead of Stallone or Norris, our one man war of redemption is fought by Thomas Ian Griffith. And he gets captured immediately upon arriving in Vietnam.

Those viewers still suffering debilitating flashbacks of Griffith’s absurd posing as a tough guy in such cinema fraggings as Excessive Force and Ulterior Motives can ease up on the anti-psychotics because this is an older, more restrained Griffith who is almost unrecognizable with his short hair, goatee and gaunt features. And with age comes the intensity needed for looking his friend in the eye and telling him it should have been him being tortured every day for the last year by the Vietnamese instead of poor old Jonesy. He’s also pretty intense when he tells the General to go ahead and shoot Jonesy after Jonesy breaks and wants to save himself instead of completing the mission!

Jonesy sort of has a point though. He got shot during the op and held off the Vietnamese while Weston made his escape with the nuclear triggers. But while Weston was able to leave the Nam, he had to leave the triggers behind. And somehow the Vietnamese knew this and kept Jonesy alive for the last year in a prison trying to torture the location of the triggers out of him.

But in Weston’s defense, he’s been tortured the last year as well. Sure it was while he as living in Tahiti with some of his marine buddies and sexy native girl while running a boat chartering business, but damn it, sometimes the freaking boat won’t start and he has to punch out obnoxious customers and there are even times when he probably runs low on beer!

Their relationship hits an understandable low point when Jonesy calls Weston out in screwing up the mission and leaving him to rot in a jail cell, while Weston acknowledges it was all his fault, but realizes he can’t rely on Jonesy anymore to do the right thing and sacrifice everything to keep the triggers from the Vietnamese. While some armchair generals would probably say Weston is just as bad when he gives up all the information to save his sister, real fans of the genre know this is a classic action movie hero cocktease and signifies we are just seconds away from a stunning outburst of violence!

But what of the camaraderie of our heroes? Are they destined never to be bros again? Because if so, no matter what happens with the triggers, isn’t the mission really a failure if Jonesy and Weston can’t patch things up? Proving the old saw that what one year as a POW can tear asunder, manning a machine gun mounted on a sidecar while your best bud pilots the motor cycle and mowing down wave after wave of filthy Viet Cong can fix in an afternoon, it isn’t too long before Wedton and Jonesy and yucking it up back on the boat in Tahiti with bikini clad babes! Heck, Jonesy would probably be the first to tell you he’d do two years in a prison camp for that! Thank you Weston for making a fellow vet’s readjustment to society so damn sexy!

Behind Enemy Lines is one of those anonymous action movies starring a couple of guys who are almost familiar. Griffith has headlined similarly generic genre movies (Crackerjack, Escape From Alaska) while Jonesy is played by Chris Mulkey who is an actor you will recognize from any number of movies and TV shows, but not actually be able to name exactly which ones. Both are pros and a cut above what you would normally expect from a Vietnam movie shot in the Philippines while everyone else in the cast is either disposable or annoying.

Nonstop action, thousands of enemy deaths, some explosions and the detestable general siccing his torture doctor on Jonsey and Weston’s sister demonstrate that the film knows what it is supposed to do and it does it competently. Where the movie lets us down is the ragtag band of friends that Weston has come to assist him. They don’t do much, but when they do, they are quite irritating and none of them has any charisma such that you can’t help but notice that Thomas Ian Griffith isn’t too bad in this movie.

As is required for such films, there’s also Weston’s native friend and the scum military guy who wants to leave Jonesy behind (again), but not enough is done with them to make much of an impression. A solidly entertaining and decent looking B action flick with Griffith showing us a lot more than in his earlier, more laughable films. (The funniest thing about thing about this film is that General Nguy is played by a guy named Spanky.)

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