3 Days in Malay
The slogs of war.
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I love a good war movie … especially ones of the World War II variety. In 1998 two pivotal yet entirely different entries to the subgenre were released – these being Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.” “SPR” is one of my top 10 favorite flicks of all-time and “TTRL” made quite the impression upon me by employing a starry cast and gorgeous visuals in its depiction of the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Suffice it to say, Malick needn’t worry about actor-turned-director Louis Mandylor’s misguided “3 Days in Malay” (available in select theaters and on VOD beginning Friday, Aug. 11) unseeding “TTRL” as the preeminent Guadalcanal picture.
Mandylor stars as ex-boxer and ex-Marine John Caputo, who’s brought in among limited Army reinforcements to help defend an airfield. There’s a frigid reunion between John and his neighborhood running mate James (retired mixed martial artist Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone) with whom he has a complicated relationship.
Also among their ranks are Rev. Conte (MMA fighter-turned-actor Quinton “Rampage” Jackson … sensing a theme here?), the ballyhooing, bearded Sgt. Foley (Peter Dobson, he cameoed as a young Elvis Presley in “Forrest Gump”) and newly-engaged St. Louis native Benny Conroy (Randall J. Bacon). (Gee, I wonder how this is gonna pan out for him?)
Outmanned and outgunned, these men and their brothers in arms are tasked with surviving a three-day invasion by Japanese forces in October of 1942.
I like Mandylor as an actor (his “Debt Collector” films co-starring Scott Adkins are especially entertaining and my wife loves his guest-starring role on “Friends” as Joey’s “twin,” Carl), but I feel as though he’s out of his depth directorially. The script by Brandon Slagle (director of “The Flood,” a recent, risible attacking alligator picture co-starring Mandylor) doesn’t do him any favors either. The story is thin and the characters are thinner. These folks are merely grist for the grinder. I didn’t care whether they lived or died and I obviously should. Some of the more seasoned actors (namely Mandylor and Dobson) admirably elevate Slagle’s stilted, cliché-riddled dialogue, but it’s not enough.
The action is a bit of mixed bag. The primary Japanese invader (apologies, I couldn’t find this actor’s name) is an imposing presence and engages in some impressive martial arts derring-do. Mandylor and his effects technicians alternate between convincing squibs and laughable CGI bullet hits. I realize this is a low-budget production, but some consistency would certainly be welcome and make for a much more immersive experience. (One character gets blown to bits and the effects are so inept I audibly LOL’d.)
Adding insult to injury, Mandylor concludes his film with a beat in which Jackson puts his helmet on and stares directly into camera lifting a similar shot of Tom Hanks from “SPR.” You, sir, are no Spielberg and self-imposed correlations aren’t the least bit complimentary.