Action pictures in the Cannes market are rarely as ambitious in subject matter and political p.o.v. as "Goodbye America," a well-meaning but inconsistently executed Navy SEALS action-meller set against the last days of America's military base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. Often high-minded tale, which shoots for the grand tradition of such military sagas as "From Here to Eternity," mixes strong perfs with less compelling thesping. Jarring zigzags between high-octane pyrotechnics and weepie romance further dull the story. Less-than-stellar onscreen talent is the key factor that will make a U.S. theatrical spin unlikely, but cable and foreign auds will be treated to a large-scale pic several cuts above the standard fare. In 1992, the cash-cow U.S. military base at Subic Bay is taking down the American flag, bowing to the wishes of the local politicos and populace and leaving a cloud of doubt about the economic future of the region.
Three young Navy SEALS, the handsome, idealistic Hawk (James Haymes Newton), the borderline psychotic Stryzack (Corin Nemec) and Bladon (Alexis Arquette), the easygoing son of a U.S. senator (Michael York), are involved in various stages of amour with their Philippine gal pals. Of the three, Bladon is the one who’s sincerely hung up — on a former hooker named Emma (Alma Concepcion).
Their couplings, together with Stryzack’s deteriorating mental condition as his life’s love — the Navy — pulls out of what he sees as a commitment to honor and warrior prowess, propel the story to the traditional actioner denouement fueled with explosions, assassinations and surreptitious stalkings through the jungle.
Along the way, pic focuses on, rather than glosses over, the very real political and social ramifications of America’s military needs and adventures, in a manner that is often thought-provoking and emotionally affecting. The conflicts between the military code of honor and brotherhood are mined, as well as the racial issues that stir local resentment of the foreign presence.
With a more polished screenplay and a less shaky commitment to the dramatic core of the story, there probably would be a bigger payday for director Thierry Notz’s ability to put the action on the screen and the producers’ willingness to gamble that action doesn’t have to be lowbrow to bring in business.
Lensing and production values are first-rate, and pic will more than satisfy viewers who can overlook the B casting elements and who long for genre pics that pack intelligence, not just firepower.