The cliches are as thick as the foliage in Farewell to the King, John Milius’ adaptation of a novel [L’adieu au roi] by French author-filmmaker Pierre Schoendoerffer. Pic recycles familiar situations and stock characters in an overlong actioner that never builds to a spiritual climax.
Two British army officers (Nigel Havers and Frank McRae) are parachuted into the Borneo jungle to rally the tribes against imminent Japanese invasion in the latter days of World War II. They come across a virile and fulfilled Nick Nolte, playing a freedom-loving white man who’s anxious to protect his natives from the barbarities of civilization.
Nolte, however, needs no further prompting to fight when the Japanese slaughter his own family. Hitting the Rambo warpath, the ex-Yank sergeant (who deserted after General MacArthur’s defeat at Corregidor) performs a ruthless clean-up operation.
Nolte, in a purely exterior performance, never rises to the nobility and tragic majesty the at-first skeptical British officers finally see in him. Havers is a sympathetic presence in an equally empty role. Other performers, including James Fox as Havers’ commanding officer, are treated as trite thumbnail portraits.