A great idea undone by inept treatment
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/13/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Few films have managed to so completely urinate away a great premise as George Hickenlooper's Grey Knight aka Ghost Brigade aka The Killing Box. Adrian Pasdar's Union officer teams up with his onetime friend and now Confederate prisoner of war Corbin Bernsen to track down a band of renegades from both sides who are wreaking indiscriminate havoc on the countryside, committing atrocities and leaving bodies crucified upside down in their wake. But they're not the usual renegades: when slave traders brought their human cargo with them from the West Indies a hundred years earlier, they unwittingly took something else as well - an evil spirit raising the dead to form an army of its own and leaving their mismatched human hunters with the problem of killing soldiers who are already dead...
With some similarities to S.P. Somtow's brilliant epic novel 'Darker Angels' cross-pollinated with Peckinpah's 'Major Dundee,' this should have been so very much better than it is. Having seen both the studio and the director's versions of the film (also known as Ghost Brigade and The Killing Box), I'm afraid that much of the blame for the fact that an intriguing script has been turned into such a frustratingly below-average movie can be laid firmly at George Hickenlooper's door. Sadly, his direction is barely a step up from Ed Wood, unable to use his limited budget to his best advantage - in addition to his terror of long shots (most of the film is played in flat two-shots or medium close-up), in the early medic sequence the camera is all too obviously just moving around in a circle to make both set and the handful of extras look more substantial (he fails miserably). Worse, he can't handle action or, to any great effect, actors.
Judging from his audio commentary on his cut on Laser Disc, his awe at Coppola's achievements with 'Apocalypse Now' has led him to slavishly imitate rather than innovate. Every other comment on the disc is about how this shot or that cast member or that piece of make-up was inspired by 'Apocalypse.' The trouble is that where Coppola had tens of millions of dollars, this looks like it's been funded by a whipround in a local bar. Hickenlooper, of course, made the brilliant documentary 'Hearts of Darkness': obviously, he's still travelling down that river long after Coppola packed his bags and went home...
A truly gifted documentary-maker, he just seems clueless about how to compose a dramatic shot or propel action: he seems to be at the mercy of events rather than controlling them. Hopefully someone will be able to salvage the remake rights and do the premise justice, but in the meantime Hickenlooper should return to what he does best - making great documentaries rather than bad fictional features."
Good plot doesn't always make a good movie
J. Davis | The Catalina F'n Wine Mixer | 03/08/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I remember when I was little I saw this flick real late at night and absolutely loved it (although I saw it under the title, "Killing Box"). Not too long ago I found Grey Knight at the ol' Blockbuster and was sooo excited I rented it (good thing I talked myself out of buying it). While ripe with cameos, (i.e. Billy Bob Thorton, David Arquette, Martin Sheen, etc) this movie was just plain bad. I must have been really easy to please in my youth. Grey Knight, I do have to say, has a great idea for a film but the directors handled it very poorly. With a touch more of plot development, budget, effects, as well as a change of director this could have been an excellent movie. I'd love to see someone remake it because it does really have an interesting story. Overall, I'd watch it again if it was on TV but I wouldn't recommend spending money to rent it."