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BASIC

A buff but tarnished military investigator and a glamorous army captain have their sleuthing cut out for them when a sadistic drill sergeant and a few good underlings vanish during a storm-tossed training exercise down Panama way.

CAST: John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, Taye Diggs, Cristián de la Fuente, Dash Mihok, Tim Daly, Roselyn Sanchez, Harry Connick Jr.

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

"Someone decided to put ‘Rashomon’ in a Cuisinart along with ‘A Few Good Men,’ ‘The Usual Suspects’ and ‘A Soldier's Story,’ and hit the pulverize button while forgetting to replace the top. The outcome is a spewing mess spinning at 300 r.p.m….‘Basic’ is so desperate to get to its nonsensical ending that it sinks to having a dying man write a clue with his own blood…Mr. Travolta may be the only star in movies making choices as bad as Cuba Gooding Jr., and each of the stupendous flops they turn up in is heartbreaking because both actors have such powerful audience rapport, as does Mr. Jackson, which makes ‘Basic’ even more of a disappointment." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"In the clumsy military suspense thriller ‘Basic,’ expositional tracts are as incessant as the rain that pummels the Panamanian setting. But they don't help much...‘Basic’ chases its tail for so long, it morphs from a whodunit into a who-cares. An unusually buff John Travolta, slipping back into the military mode of ‘Broken Arrow’ and ‘The General's Daughter,’ commands the screen with innate star power and a touch of that old Vinnie Barbarino swagger…But screenwriter (and co-producer) James Vanderbilt's knottier-than-a-pretzel script, with its seemingly endless maze of lies and deceptions and flashbacks and triple-crosses, will make your head ache." --Megan Lehmann, The New York Post

"It’s a Rubik's Cube of a movie, where nothing is as it seems, no conclusion is pat, and plot lines can unravel at the snap of a finger…if you're that worried about ensuring that point A flows smoothly into point B, don't be. Things eventually become clear. Instead, enjoy the whip-cracking plot turns and the marvelously cocksure performance of John Travolta, whose blue eyes and buff physique (nice to see him back in lean, mean, fighting-machine mode) are in service to a role that allows him to overplay in a manner that ensures the character is as much fun to watch as he undoubtedly was to play. Or, to put things another way, buy your ticket, sit yourself down, and let ol' John take you for a ride. You'll have a blast." --Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

"‘Basic’ is another depressingly empty action thriller built, as is the prevailing trend, from an inconsequential progression of deceptions and Rashomonic conflicting narratives. Who's really dead, and why? Who cares! That'll be $8.50, please...Samuel L. Jackson limits his vocal range to a madman's holler as the sadistic training sergeant. Travolta's direct-to-video performance is matched by Nielsen's balky surrender to a Southern accent. As an extraneously gay survivor of the debacle, Giovanni Ribisi shows disturbing symptoms of incipient Rod Steigerism." --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"Vanderbilt's script and McTiernan's direction have a brittle, mechanical quality. You can feel the gears grinding, whether in the larger plot (and endless low-visibility flashbacks set in that grating hurricane) or in the smaller moments between Nielsen and Travolta. The various twists feel contrived — betcha didn't see that coming — instead of organic …Travolta breezes through this role with the amused and over-heated self-assurance he had in the films of John Woo. There's a playful quality to his performance that's engaging, even when the plotting is hard to swallow. Jackson is in his element as the thundering, godlike drill instructor…‘Basic’ is never less than engaging, but also never less than arbitrary." --Marshall Fine, The Journal News

"If any of your talkative friends get to ‘Basic’ before you do, don't worry about them giving the plot away. They won't be able to. For though it's made with reasonable efficiency, this John Travolta-starring military thriller about murky doings in the jungles of Panama is so unashamedly confusing, so intent on piling twist upon twist upon twist, it makes your head hurt just trying to figure out what's happened…It's ironic that when a film finally lives up to its ad line (‘Deception Is Their Most Dangerous Weapon’), you wish it hadn't." --Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

"‘Basic’ is a ‘Usual Suspects’ wolf in sheep's clothing of a military thriller. What seems to be a routine investigation into the disappearance of an elite Special Forces team in the Panama jungle turns into a twisteroo mystery with a ‘Rashomon’ edge… The events, even though they're on a skittery surface, are relatively forgettable…The weakest element of all is the by-the-numbers sexual tension between Hardy and Capt. Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen), who's conducting the investigation. Her rookie iciness, pitted against Travolta's flirty deviltry, doesn't have the adversarial ring the movie aims for. Nielsen seems, quite simply, to be out of her element. Travolta gets to run rings around her without particularly daunting opposition…there are some enjoyable moments, mostly thanks to Travolta's swaggery ease with the role." --Desson Howe, The Washington Post