Reviewed April 6th, 2002 by David Nusair
It’s not surprising that Joel Schumacher would elect to make a low-budget flick like Tigerland. After he was practically ostracized from Hollywood for destroying the Batman franchise (well, if he wasn’t, he should have been), he did the smart thing and stayed out of the spotlight for a little while. He bounced back with the gritty and violent thriller 8mm, which was refreshingly free of sentiment. With Tigerland, Schumacher earns the right to call himself a filmmaker once again.
Set in the early ‘70s when the Vietnam war was in full swing, Tigerland refers to a training camp on the outskirts of the conflict – where recruits are exposed to (basically) a practice version of the conflict. Colin Farrell stars as the rebel outsider – a sort of James Dean type, except without the hair – who stirs things up and generally tends to make life miserable for his superiors. The cast is peppered with familiar and not-so-familiar faces as the other recruits, though none really stand out.
Tigerland is exceedingly familiar – from its well-worn story to the various stereotypical characters – but with a flick like this, that’s okay. Most war movies of this ilk, where we see recruits of different backgrounds getting acclimatized to their new settings, often rely on what works (heck, even Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket was guilty of this to a certain extent). Tigerland is no different, introducing us to a variety of cliched personas – but really, would these grimy fellows have stood out if they hadn’t have been stock characters?
But the heart of Tigerland is Farrell’s relationship with his surroundings, which seems to waver between hatred and grim acceptance. This is a guy who knows how to work the system (such as when he manages to secure an early release for a homesick cadet) as well as he knows how to push just the right buttons on his superiors. He considers himself far too righteous and plain old cool to be there. And though the rest of the cast consists mostly of the stereotypical characters you might expect, Cole Hauser pops up late in the film and makes quite an impact. As a grizzled and somewhat bitter seasoned soldier, Hauser brings some much-needed intensity to the film.
Tigerland is an effective look at the training process that recruits have to endure, but never quite catches fire or becomes the searing expose that director Schumacher intended.
Audio: Tigerland is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and it’s quite impressive. There are a lot of ambient sounds to be had here – from gunfire to trucks rolling by – and the disc handles them all flawlessly. And when it comes to quieter, more dialogue-based sequences, the disc does not disappoint.
Video: This anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 transfer is hard to judge, since Schumacher chose to employ a really grainy type of film-stock. But, putting that aside, this is a clean transfer with nary an instance of artifacting. Colors aren’t vibrant, but I suppose that’s exactly what Schumacher intended.
Extras: First up is a commentary track with Schumacher. Say what you will about his flicks, but the guy proves to be a very interesting speaker. The track rarely suffers from long gaps of silence, with Schumacher filling the time by talking about the various elements in shooting the picture – which was filmed on a budget that would have barely covered the catering on one of his Batman movies. He has nothing but praise for star Farrell, whom he essentially discovered (and has since cast him in two other flicks). Speaking of Farrell, also included are three audition tapes featuring the actor. These aren’t terribly exciting (they never are), but fans of Farrell will probably dig this. Next up is a very brief and mostly useless little featurette. This is basically a trailer, except with actual footage of the filming. Speaking of trailers, one for the film is included (as is a trailer for Tora Tora Tora), in addition to two TV spots.
Conclusion: Tigerland is an impressive, though not amazing, look at the rigors of basic training.
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