Southern Comfort is a bit of a variation on a theme for director Walter Hill, as he finds himself revisiting the story of a group of men trapped in enemy territory; a set-up that proved to be successful for Hill with his beloved cult film The Warriors.
This time Hill has ditched the mean streets of New York City in favour of the swamplands of Louisiana as the setting for his beleaguered band of brothers.
During weekend manoeuvres, a group of ill-disciplined Louisiana National Guardsmen get lost in the wilderness. After the soldiers accidentally anger a group of Cajun hunters, they find themselves being stalked through unknown terrain with little more than blank ammunition to defend them.
The Warriors’ knowingly excessive, almost camp visual style is goes out of the window here, replaced by a more sombre, grittier feel. No more stylish gangs daubed in face-paint or dressed as mimes, no more disco soundtrack. Southern Comfort is a grimmer film altogether, the struggling gang of soldiers’ relationship deteriorates quickly; what begins as a ramshackle party swiftly becomes even more unprofessional , and as mistrust and mutual hated sets in, the men find themselves being slowly picked off by their followers. What it lacks in flair, it makes up for in mean, ugly ferocity.
Included on the DVD is an interview with the director, in which he states how little he enjoys the film’s reading as a metaphor for Vietnam. Hill says it’s the one question he won’t entertain, which is his prerogative, but it’s difficult not to see the comparisons. The group is dropped into a foreboding swampland, surrounded by an enemy they can barely see and can’t communicate with; fighting for a reason they can barely comprehend.
As a nuts and bolts piece of genre entertainment it barely puts a foot wrong. A meandering, explosively violent film with a degree of intelligence; it’s a tense piece of exploitation cinema that’s also superbly complimented by Ry Cooder’s poignantly uneasy score.
Chris Banks (@Chris_in_2D)
BD/DVD Release Date: 26th November 2012 (uk)
Directed By:Walter Hill
Cast:Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, Peter Coyote,
Buy Southern Comfort: (Limited Edition packaging) [Bluray] / DVD