Tigerland feels like someone walked up to Joel Schumacher, handed him $20 and said the word Vietnam, and then told him to go make a movie. It’s a lil’ bit boot-camp in the South for boys on the way to ‘Nam, it’s a lil’ bit Dogma 95 with all that home-video style footage, it’s a lotta bit a movie that lacks just about everything on every level. With main characters who sounds as if they’re talking from deep inside a fish tank, to a plot utterly bereft of interesting twists or cohesive dialogue, Tigerland misses out by a mile or two in approximating a decent war movie. Platoon, this ain’t. At best, Tigerland is not much more than a low-rated, cable-channel movie-of-the-week that should be channel-surfed right on by.
Attempting to aim its focus at one rebellious recruit named Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell), Tigerland follows a lone fellow in 1971 on his way through the ugly rigors of a Fort Polk, Louisiana, based bootcamp. Tigerland is the army’s stickiest training ground, a place where your mind gets its last military-f***ing before you get shipped of to kill the enemy in Vietnam. Bozz himself is on a mission to get kicked of the military and not go to Vietnam, according to his own mental decision, so he proceeds to do just about everything he can to get booted out of the military as quick as possible. When Bozz isn’t talking politics with his buddy in a motel room after having sex with the town-sluts, he’s screwing with the army’s equipment and the minds of those in command in a manner that would make Klinger proud.
Basically, Tigerland offers up a movie about war with no war, a film about a soldier who doesn’t want to be one, and lets audiences everywhere find out that when nobody wants to be in Tigerland, nobody in the theater wants to be watching Tigerland either. It’s a little bit too bad, though, if only because both the hand-held shooting and seemingly able acting of Farrell are capable of representing the truth of the ugliness of war without ever having gotten there. Unluckily, the reality of watching Bozz peel potatoes and carry on incomprehensible conversations with his buddies is beyond simple tolerance. Even when Bozz goes out of his way to free not just himself but his peers from sure death in Vietnam by getting them out of Tigerland, no one cares because his fellow recruits are so lost in a mudpit of meaningless. Even Bozz’s more high-minded buddy, Matt Davis (Jim Paxton), doesn’t really matter much in the end.
Writers Ross Klavan and Michæl McGruther don’t help make the muck any better, and it’s unclear why Schumacher, known for mega-blockbuster-sized movies like Batman and atomic bombs like 8mm went so far out of his way to make such a tiny looking film like Tigerland. Perhaps he’s attempting to move from big bad films to small bad films. Who knows. Ever since Three Kings redefined just how great a war movie can be, movies like Tigerland have become unforgivable. Hopefully, enough people will miss this movie that when Farrell finally comes out of this rubble and into a good film, Tigerland will be long forgotten.