Dir. Justin Lin. US. 2006. 103mins.
Justin Lin's studio debut, Annapolis is a peculiarly engineered piece of Reagan-style swaggercouched in the form of popular entertainment. It ends with the sound ofmilitary drumbeat - and audiences are likely to feel bludgeoned by what hasgone before.
It is capably ifdistractedly made, though it has no convincing dramatic shape or emotionallyrecognisable movements to compensate for the overwrought storytelling.
In the US, where it opensthis weekend, it may prove a hard sell given its cast of largely unknown actorsand a visual look that often resembles a TVrecruitment commercial.
In Europe, where the castwill carry less weight, the insular subject matter can only hinder prospects.TV and DVD are likely to be its best revenue streams, especially since Annapolis feels and plays liketelevision.
David Collard's scriptplunders two features from the 1980s, AnOfficer And A Gentleman and Top Gun, without updating those works in any original manner.
The movie is not quite asorgiastic as Tony Scott's fighter pilot film, although the tone and context is likewiseworshipful of its title setting, the US Naval Academy.
Jake (Franco), a roughneckwho works as a welder in a depressed river town, is improbably accepted intothe academy opposite where he toils.
But in fulfilling hisadolescent pledge to his late mother, he also incurs the envy of his working-classneighbourhood friends and curious disappointment of his father (Goodman).
The first half feels as ifit is appropriating entire sequences from Taylor Hackford'sAn Officer And AGentleman, detailing the rigorous training, discipline and sacrificerequired of the first-year candidates, as well as offering up the suicidaldespondency of a failed candidate.
Jake's institutional nemesisis the tough African-American company commander, Midshipman Lt Cole (Gibson) (whocarries overtones of Sgt Emil Foley, as played by Oscar winner Lou Gossett Jr in An Officer').
It also conjures up the loveinterest from Top Gun by makingJake's immediate military superior, the beautiful and sinewy Ali (Brewster),his sexually available romantic conquest.
Unfortunately, these set-upsnot only lack visual excitement but also any dramatic revelation or emotionaltension.
Rather the dramatic conflictturns on the private dilemmas of the ethnically defined supporting characters.In these sections Annapolis almost devolvesinto a rollcall of caricature, including the sociallyconservative, striving Asian (Fan), the likable, overweight African-American(Shannon) and the sexually voracious Puerto Rican (Calderon).
Lurching toward a dramaticpay off, the movie uses the Academy's boxing competition, the Brigades, tocontrive one final officially sanctioned showdown between Franco and Gibson.
It is here that Lin - who isnow working on the third of The Fast And The Furious series, as well as the English-languageadaptation of Oldboy- tries to jazz the movie up visually, with lots of spasmodic camera movement.But all his rhetorical visual flourishes fail to enlighten the predictable andflat material.
Mother B Productions
Vicellous Reon Shannon