For a review of “Fury,”
This bit of heroics isn’t “what I wanted to do,” Brad Pitt’s battle-scarred sergeant, and a hundred movie sergeants before him, growl. “But it’s what we’re doing.”
“Fury” is the sort of World War II movie Hollywood used to churn out four or five times a year — a gritty, grunt’s eye-view of combat. The grit is bloodier and R-rated now, as is the combat jargon. Firefights have a visceral, video-game immediacy. It’s still a B-movie.
But even a B-movie stuffed with cliches can be gripping. “Fury,” written and directed by David “Training Day” Ayer, takes us into the claustrophobic confines of a tank and makes a fine star vehicle for Pitt, if not the most original march down World War II lane.
The s ergeant’s “war name” is Wardaddy, and we meet him as his battle weary crew delivers a dead comrade to base. In the last days of the war, Germany is lashing out with a suicidal fatalism — fanatical SS troops, old men, boys and girls are being sacrificed in one last Nazi blood purge.
“Fury,” the name of their tank, is sole survivor of their last mission. Now they’ve been given a replacement (Logan Lerman) and a new task. The opening credits remind us that U.S. armor was inferior to German tanks, so every mission could be their last.
But the cynical crew still mutters “Best job I ever had” when the going gets tough. Boyd ( Shia Labeouf) is a drawling, Bible-quoting gunner. Grady (Jon Bernthal) is loader and mechanic, an ugly brute and bully. Gordo ( Michael Pena) — nicknamed for the Spanish word for “fat” — is the driver. They proceed to haze and abuse t he new guy ( Lerman), whose eight weeks of training were meant to make him an Army clerk. He is, as such characters always are in such films, idealistic.
In “Training Day/Saving Private Ryan” fashion, the new guy has to see the carnage — tanks churning corpses to goo, heads exploding and the occasional summary execution of the enemy. Wardaddy is a bit of a fanatic about killing SS fanatics.
“Fury” gives Pitt a story arc that makes him harder and more cruel than anybody in this crew, which he has kept alive since the North African campaign. But we get hints there are layers he’s hiding.
The cast around him plays mostly stock characters, but vivid ones.
Ayer hasn’t topped “Saving Private Ryan,” even though he recycles chunks of it. “Fury” is more like Sam Fuller’s personal war memoir, “The Big Red One” — straightforward, less poetic, an action film with a hint of humanity and history that is fast receding from view. It’s good, not great, and it’s not Ayer’s fault that the rarer these B-movies become, the more we expect from them.
“Fury, ” a Columbia release, is rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images and language throughout. Running time: 134 minutes.
“Best of Me”
For an hour or so, Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden gamely swim against the current, fighting the torpid tide of tripe that romance novelist Nicholas Sparks sends their way in his latest.
It’s sad to watch them strain and struggle and then give up as the lachrymose “The Best of Me” drowns them in a sea of saccharine.
It’s yet another doomed last chance love story set in the coastal South, starcrossed lovers “destined” to be together, but kept apart by tragedy. There’s barely a tear left in this limp weeper.
Dawson (Marsden) once loved Amanda (Monaghan). They were high school sweethearts — the pushy, spunky rich girl, the book- smart “white trash” bayou rat from a family of dentally deficient lowlifes.
But circumstances broke them apart, and when we meet him he’s on an oil rig in the Gulf, a rig that has a blowout that hurls him into the sea. When he wakes up, he’s summoned to the reading of a will. She’s been summoned, too.
Can love’s flame rekindle after 20 years? “Twenty-one, actually.” Can she ignore the hurt he caused and leave the family she started? Can he come off as noble as he hopes against hope to bust up that family? What do you think?
Gerald McRaney plays a mildly-amusing old cuss who took Dawson in when he was a teen. It’s his will they read. Through flashbacks, the old man’s narration and heartfelt hand-written letters, we learn their past, as performed by Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato, who don’t look much at all like the adults they’re supposed to be and don’t heat this story up.
Back then, she was all “You don’t know how to flirt, do ya?” And he was all “Des- tiny is a name the fortunate give to their fortunes.”
And his redneck daddy (Sean Bridgers) is all, “You think you’re too GOOD for this family?”
The boy studies physics, sitting on the catwalk of the rusty town water tower in their little Louisiana town. So yeah, he is.
Director Michael Hoffman (“One Fine Day”) was probably never up to the task of polishing this floater.
But the adults are interesting to watch, and Monaghan comes close to breaking our heart, once or twice — a little catch in her voice, a tear. At some point, the spark goes out of her performance and she joins Marsden as a sort of bystander in a movie their efforts alone won’t save.
There’s an artless obviousness to Sparks — the choice of tune they pick as “their song,” the tasteful PG-13 sex scenes, the righteous rural way of settling scores. None of which isn’t helped by the fact that “The Best of Me” is just Sparks’ greatest hits, starting with “The Notebook,” a touch of “Dear John” and running through every “not good enough for my daughter,” every tragic death, broken memory or noble sacrifice.
Which is why “The Best of Me” plays like the worst of Nicholas Sparks.
“Best Of Me,” a Relativity release, is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, some drug content and brief strong language. Running time: 113 minutes. ½