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Tunnel Rats
cast: Michael Paré, Wilson Bethel, Adrian Collins, and Scott Cooper

director: Uwe Boll

92 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Does the war film thrive in times of conflict? The health of any genre isn't measured by the presence of huge-budget works by major directors, but by a plethora of what were once called B-movies that follow in their wake. And in a post-9/11 world, lower-budgeted films dramatising past conflicts seem to be being made more often than before, all over the world. Elsewhere on this disc there is a trailer for the Chinese film Assembly, which deals with that country's civil war. Recently, we've had Kokoda, a well-made, unpretentious Australian film about a heroic episode from the Second World War. Tunnel Rats (or, 1968 Tunnel Rats, as it is actually called in the opening credits), is a creditable example of a meat-and-potatoes war film, set in Vietnam.

Uwe Boll's screenplay, from a story by producer Daniel Clarke, is based on true events from Vietnam, though the characters are all fictitious. It has a two-act structure. In the first half we are introduced to the American soldiers as they arrive at camp. Then, halfway through, they are sent on their mission: to clear out the tunnels at Cu Chi. But the tunnels contain many surprises - traps, whole families living underground and murderous VC soldiers.

With South African locations standing in for Vietnam, and the tunnels recreated in the studio, Tunnel Rats resolves into decently-made scenes of battle, gruesome enough to keep this away from the young and the squeamish. The film's main flaw is that none of the soldiers is particularly well characterised, a common problem in films like this - they become barely distinguishable from each other. However, the final scenes, where a soldier confronts a Vietnamese woman who is living underground with her children, is a powerful one, and the film ends on a note of joining together in a common task rather than undying enmity. Matthias Neumann's camerawork shows signs of digital tweaking, but is effective enough. There's some nice use of period music on the soundtrack. That's Zager and Evans' In The Year 2525 over the opening credits.

Metrodome's DVD is in the original ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. The default sound option is Dolby digital 2.0, but a very immersive 5.1 track is the one to go for. There are no hard-of-hearing subtitles, only fixed ones translating Vietnamese dialogue.

The DVD begins with trailers for Assembly, The Counterfeiters, and Overlord, which can be fast-forwarded but not skipped. Other extras: a 14-minute interview with Boll, a six-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, four minutes of (silent) outtakes, and the film's trailer.
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