Reviewed by: Ken James
Clint Eastwood is Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway, the posterchild for gung-ho Marines. He eats, sleeps and drinks military. Unfortunately, he drinks too much. His drinking has helped to destroy much of his life through numerous encounters with the law and a marital divorce in his past. That, however, is minor in the plot of “Heartbreak Ridge”.
Sgt. Highway is nearing the mandatory retirement phase of his decorated military career. He is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and has served in many military strikes in his past decades as a U.S. Marine. Sgt. Highway eventually is transferred back “home” to a base where he spent many memorable years. He is assigned the seemingly impossible task of shaping-up some incredibly rude and crude un-military Marines. Can he do it? Of course—he’s Clint Eastwood!
“Heartbreak Ridge” is littered with coarse joking, sexual innuendos, too much profanity to count, and some minor nudity in out-of-focus posters and Marines in their underwear. While Eastwood is considered by many to be the King of One-liners, it’s not worth sitting through this film just to pick up some good lines.
As Sgt. Highway and his now-elite group of reformed Marines finally goes to combat in the conflict with Grenada, the film picks up speed with great military action—suprisingly clean (despite the warlike conditions).
As a reviewer who has spent several years in the military, I had to scoff at the idea of Marines who had already been through Basic Training (now in AIT) dressed like civilians… long hair, earrings, no respect for authority, physically and verbally abusive to their non-commissioned officers. The military may be made of many crude, loud, hard-drinking, sex-crazed men—but surely we can give the Marines a better picture than “Heartbreak Ridge”. (By the way, the military has plenty of hard-working respectable men and women as well—don’t overlook us.)