Production Budget: $58 million
Gross: $49 million
Red Tails is based off of the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a test group of African American fighter pilots used during WWII. Producer George Lucas had difficulty finding a distributor for this movie which he blamed on racism from Hollywood. I tend to believe they did not want to distribute it because its a piece of crap.
Red Tails is juggling far too many balls and Lucas is barely talented enough to keep one ball in the air. When I talk about balls I actually mean sub plots and themes. Situations are set up and nothing is ever explored fully. Let me give you a few examples. One subplot involves one of the red tails getting shot down and put in a POW camp. Whether this happened in real life I have no clue because I don’t believe a single thing Lucas tells me about historical accuracy. But even overlooking that, I want to focus on this more in storytelling terms. So you want to tell the story about the imprisonment and escape of a pilot in a POW camp. Fine. You need to dedicate more than five minutes of your film to this. I am not exaggerating when I say the moment the pilot walks in to the camp he is immediately told of an escape plan and the next scene with him has him popping out of a hole being dug out of the camp. Why even bother with that story if you aren’t even going to put five minutes into telling it? How are we supposed to be invested or feel anything about this character when the moment you put him in this situation he immediately escapes?
Another sub plot is about the commander and his supposed “drinking problem“. I put that in giant air quotes because I never see it as being a problem. We see him drinking, and we have scenes where people tell us his drinking will cause problems in the air, but we never see it. I’m no screenwriter, but even I know you need a scene where the captain’s drinking problem presents itself so you are justified in bringing it up. In the movie, we actually get the opposite. I never see the captain having a problem flying or commanding his squadron, and in fact, I see him attempt a heroic rescue while supposedly drunk. The rescue fails but not because of the drunk captain, but because of mistakes from other people. So instead of actually showing me how his drinking causes a problem you show me the opposite that somehow drinking makes him a better pilot while simultaneously telling me he is putting everyone in danger.
Another subplot involves one of the pilots in a supposed romance with an Italian woman. These are the scenes involving the two and again, I am not making this up. Scene one the pilot sees the woman from a few thousand feet up in a plane and they have love at first sight. Scene two the pilot finds the woman’s house and just makes himself at home despite never talking before. Scene three they fuck. Scene four he proposes to the girl. Keep in mind that these characters cannot speak to each other because he only speaks English and she only speaks Italian. So we are lead to believe that this couple has sprinted through the relationship course of meeting, fucking, and marrying within the span of a week without even talking to one another?
I keep referring to the characters as the pilot or the male or the captain because I honestly can’t remember any of the characters to even look on IMDb to put in this review. They are all these one dimensional stereotypes that you would see in any movie of this kind. For being a movie about the real life Tuskegee Airmen, I feel ripped off. I don’t feel like I learn anything about any of these people and what they really went through. Instead we get generic war movie with a generic racism is bad theme slapped on. I would be interested in seeing a new movie on the Tuskegee Airmen. Too bad I didn’t get that here.
But even overlooking the fact this is not a factual movie and just looking at it as an action movie I still don’t like it. As I mentioned before the characters are one dimensional and one of my main characters is flat out unlikable. There is this Maverick type character who is supposed to be the cool rebel but is simply annoying. Am I really supposed to root for the guy who disobeys orders constantly and gets people killed for doing that? Forget the drinking problem, the whole disobeying orders problem gets far more people killed. I didn’t want him to be our protagonist, I wanted him to be thrown in jail for insubordination.
The lack of connection to the characters also hurts the action when I don’t give a crap if they live or die. Even overlooking that though, I still don’t think the action is any good. The fight scenes miss that speed that anyone who even watched Top Gun as a kid would know you need and the lame CGI makes the whole thing look fakey.
You may have noticed I haven’t even mentioned the two biggest stars of this movie: Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. Well, that is because they are not really in it. You see Cuba wandering around lost on set munching on his pipe cause that is the only character trait he is given. Major Stance – He has a pipe. Terrence Howard’s only job is to show up every 30 minutes or so and deliver a lame inspirational speech.
I guess the only other items to really discuss are the dialog and the direction. Come on, this is a George Lucas supervised movie, of course the dialog is shitty. It is almost so bad its funny to see the horribly stilted expository dialog being forced out of the crappy actors mouths. And despite already knowing this movie was directed by Anthony Hemingway and not George Lucas, I think my subconscious mind knew better and for the longest time, my draft had the director listed as Lucas. This movie looks and sounds so much like a Lucas film that I could seriously not tell the difference. Hemingway must have had Lucas on his back the whole production.
I seriously didn’t mean to rant for so long but when you want me to list the things that are wrong with this movie you get a book. Lucas‘ films should almost be study material for film school on what not to do. Red Tails betrays the real Tuskegee Airmen by shitting on their story for the sake of a crappy action film that doesn’t even work in that regard. The writing is horrible with half baked sub plot after half baked subplot, the dialog is hilariously bad, the acting is flat and stilted, the direction is piss poor, the story is predictable at best, and the action is boring. This was near the worst film of 2012 for me. By the way Red Tails won Best Picture at the NAACP Image Awards. I don’t care what criteria you use, if Red Tails was seriously the best anything of the year, I would quit watching movies from then on.