Under Fire (1983) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Never has so little been done with so much. The script isn't bad at all. The concept is good - a photojournalist is covering the revolution in Nicaragua. He is working with a friend's wife there. He manages to lose his objectivity about everything. He ends up taking sides in the war and sleeping with his friend's wife. Although that sounds sensationalistic, the film isn't. It tried to show that life goes on, people get involved with each other even in war zones. It also tried to show that being impartial is easier to say than to do. It's a serious film, not a sensationalist one. even the love story is downplayed.

The cast is first rate. Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy, Ed Harris. The film received three and a half stars from Maltin, and is rated a near-classic 7.0 at IMDb. It has an Oscar-nominated original musical score. The sets seem to be extremely accurate in their recreation of Central American life and politics, except that the revolutionaries are ludicrously glamorized, including some hot babes.


The film pointedly contrasts reporter Nolte, who is supposed to stay neutral but can't because he has a conscience which is more important than his ambition, with mercenary soldier Harris, who will be happy to change sides for a better paycheck. In the end, Nolte pulls an El Cid. He photographs a dead rebel leader to make him look alive, thus spurring the rebels to victory.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

So why haven't you ever heard of this movie?

Well, it's extraordinarily lifeless, for one thing. This movie takes the phrase "low key" to new depths. Nolte mumbles constantly. Cassidy shows no emotion of any kind. The script also drags on, and on, and on  ..... 

And the theme doesn't seem as important as when it was made. When the cold war ended, the era of brushfire wars followed suit, and a lot of what was passionate at the time is now historical curiosity.

It is a pretty good movie, but the Maltin and IMDb scores would lead you to believe it is a great one, which it isn't. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.0 
  • With their dollars ... it grossed $5.7 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+.

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