Men Of Honour (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/03/2001

2 out of 5stars
Running time: 128 mins

Worthy biopic with a superb performance by Gooding, but let down by a substandard script and DeNiro’s tendency to overdo it in the acting department.

After the initial prologue in which Brashear promises his father never to give up on his dreams, we meet him as a young, idealistic sailor in 1952. Although he seemingly has no chance of promotion in the notoriously racist Navy, his headstrong behaviour nonetheless leads to him becoming a rescue swimmer and earning the admiration of officer Powers Boothe, who in turn recommends his entry into the Diving School Brashear has set his heart on.

Once enrolled in the Diving School, Brashear finds himself under the command of Master Chief Billy Sunday (Robert DeNiro), himself an ex-Master Diver, forcibly retired due to a medical condition.

Naturally, this gives DeNiro the opportunity to run through all the tough drill sergeant clichés in the book, but especially the ones that involve shouting – Sunday becomes Brashear’s nemesis, and then, years later, his friend, after Brashear loses his leg in the line of duty and has to fight to be reinstated in his job.

To be fair, the film has its good points. The underwater rescue sequences are well-handled and maintain a consistent level of claustrophobic tension – particularly impressive is Brashear’s underwater encounter with a Russian submarine.

Similarly, Gooding proves that his Oscar for Jerry Maguire wasn’t just a flash in the pan, and delivers an understated, yet deeply passionate performance. There’s good support, too, from Powers Boothe (who doesn’t do nearly enough films) and from Aunjanue Ellis as Brashear’s love interest.

Sadly, however, the film is let down by a script that is, at times, laughably bad ("Nice flange, son", DeNiro says at one point), and strays all too often into cheesy speech-making territory. This, in turn, allows DeNiro to overact more than is strictly necessary, and unbalances the dynamic between him and Gooding.

Similarly, the film wastes the talents of Michael Rapaport (as stuttering Diving School student Snowhill) and The Lovely Charlize Theron (who can currently also be seen in The Legend of Bagger Vance) as DeNiro’s wife, by giving them both nothing to do. And that’s before you even get to the misjudged and wince-inducing Rocky-style finale…

In short, though Gooding puts in a splendid performance and despite a smattering of decent scenes, this is watchable at best and you may find yourself sniggering at inappropriate moments. Wait for the video.

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Men Of Honour (15)
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Content updated: 16/12/2017 18:40

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