Sunday Club 002: USS Indianapolis Men Of Courage

Sunday Club 002: USS Indianapolis Men Of Courage

Week two of Sunday Club and it’s out of the frying pan and into the absolute landfill apparently. It was Ashley’s pick this week and after the atrocious flag waving, God bless America jingo of London Has Fallen he decided to take a bit of a left turn and go for some flag waving, God bless America jingo in the shape of USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage courtesy of the aptly named production company Patriot Pictures… What an arsehole.


I know in school you’re always taught to never judge a straight to DVD clunker by its cover but if this one was anything to go the by the horrors of actual war were already looking a shitesight more appealing. Never the less with an eight pack of a particularly light beer by my side (Coors was on offer) I soldiered back to the frontlines of lacklustre film making aka another Sunday on my sofa ready to watch Nicolas Cage swim against the surging tides of taste and quality in Mario Van Peebles USS: Indiana Polish.

Proceedings opened with what appears to be a cutscene of a World War 2 naval battle from an old Playstation game that some intern apparently spliced into the actual film by mistake whilst desperately attempting to get enough hours under their belt to qualify for ACE membership. However, we then cut to Nicholas Cage pretending to thrash about on the deck of a Playstation One naval vessel and it became all too clear that not only were those late 90s visual effects supposed to be in the film but poor old Nicholas Cage is actually trying to sell them to us… Surely some jail time for not paying IRS back that $6.2 million dollars in tax would be an easier ride than this shit? Apparently not.

In a sudden (but not wholly unpredictable) twist the terrible CGI battle scene ends abruptly after about fifteen seconds; whether this was an exercise in cutting costs or cutting losses remains to be seen but either way it’s binned off faster than a character reference from Rolf Harris in an abuse case.

We then cut to a hackneyed group of lazily cast fat American CIA types sat in a smoky projection room talking about your bog-standard cloak and dagger, “we need some men of courage to go behind enemy lines” rigmarole… Credit where its due they set the entire plot up in under sixty seconds and it’s on to the next scene. Fingers crossed the rest of the film clips along at this pace.
Obligatory introductions of the young, naïve, milk faced gunners then ensue: There’s some excruciatingly lazy dialogue about one of them being in love with a girl since seventh grade and not having the guts to tell her, there’s a typically big 1940s white picket fence house and a clumsy joke about Gone With The Wind (which right now I would give a kidney to be watching instead)… and then there’s a fully choreographed dance scene like something translplanted out of the music video for Christina Aguilera’s early noughties chart banger Candyman which has literally no context and sounds like it’s been mixed down by Steve Aoki with a bucket on his head.

There’s absolutely no explanation as to where this full pelt swing band is playing from, nor where the group of young, nubile Gil Elvgren girls appeared from, nor what the fuck this has anything to do with anything. To be fair it’s easily been the best bit so far.

Never mind that though because here comes a pissed-up Tom Sizemore literally looking like a crash-test dummy upholstered in an Avirex skinsuit yelling off the side of a boat! Assumedly this is part of the film, but with the narrative as all over the place as it currently is it wouldn’t be a real surprise to find out Sizemore just wandered in off a parole hearing and no-one on set had the courage to ask him to leave.

Come to think of it I’d rather watch Sizemore at a parole hearing, surely there’s a DVD copy of that floating about?

We find out he’s expecting a child (read: he’ll be dead within the hour) and even more confusingly the narrative then cuts back to the sailors, now in the cinema, with one of them providing a voiceover via taking notes in his notebook… a voiceover which Nicholas Cage had initially been doing whilst writing to his wife at the start of the film…

We’re only ten minutes in and this fucker already has more unrelated narrative threads than a Tarantino’s Rashomon.

Meanwhile the sailors who haven’t been properly introduced have gone clubbing post cinema trip (it’s hell this war business) but apparently they’ve got too pissed too early in the night and ended up on the set of Westside Story. The CGI was piss-poor but this tops the lot: it literally looks like the production team broke onto the set of an off-broadway musical (or themed diner.)

A terribly edited fight sequence and a rubbish sub-plot about a wedding ring ensue and then, much like everything else in this film so far it all ends abruptly. Presumably because we’ve still got a hundred more half-baked sub-plots to initiate before anyone goes anywhere near a boat.

A suitably embarrassed looking Cage miraculously re-appears (you can already tell this is one of those three days on set for three million quid jobs) to speak to his men. They’re probably the same ones who had the fight on the set of Westside Story but its hard to tell as none of them have really been given any actual context yet besides wearing sailor hats. He tells them in a quite matter of fact tone that “without me you are nothing” and, based on this faceless mulch of a cast, it’s probably the closest this film will get to an actual fact.

Cage then comes in with another voiceover almost immediately after his last scene. Fuck knows where the other voiceover from the fight went but its irrelevant now becasue some Japanese soldiers are drafted in to take over the narrative. The subtitles on my *ahem* rented DVD weren’t working / the production possibly couldn’t afford any so I have no idea what they were on about… Given that this film already has eighty six narratives it’s probably a blessing in disguise.

There’s confusing attempts throughout at everything from establishing the “depth” of individual characters to touching on the incendiary racial tensions of the day: these are attempted in variously off-key ways including (but not limited to) Tom Sizemore carrying a pigeon about in a cage and randomly punching fellow crewmates, Nicholas Cage looking simultaneously wistful and confused (but to be fair that might just be Cage trying to work out if it’s his turn to do a bit of the voiceover) and two of the African American members of the crew putting hotsauce in a white superior’s coffee… I’m not sure if this last one counts as racial profiling or not to be honest but the film is directed by son of legendary Blaxploitation actor / director Melvin Peebles and star of Highlander 3: The Sorcerer Mario Van Peebles so we’ll brush over all that.

Still not sure why Tom Sizemore punches someone just for turning up on time though: Maybe they reminded him of the time he starred in Ticker alongside Steven Seagal, Dennis Hopper and Nas which, to be fair, would be bang out of order.
Anyway long story short they drop off a nuclear bomb that’ll wipe out half of Japan / end the war (casual) and emotionally it’s a mixed bag for the crew. A character called Sanchez seems particularly sad. Does any film ever not have a tertiary character called Sanchez? I think Harry Potter even had a Wizard Sanchez. His Patronus charm was some anthropomorphised guacamole dip.

Post celebration / commiseration the narrative switches back to the Japanese team whose subtitles don’t work. One jumps in a manned torpedo which was a particularly nasty little weapon of war and he blows up the USS Indianapolis in (assumedly) revenge for either that whole nuclear bomb fiasco or possibly because one of the US team has stolen the voiceover back again.

To be honest I don’t really care anymore and apparently neither does Nicholas Cage who can’t even be arsed to waddle off shot at anything faster than a meander whilst his boat is roasting.

The whole sinking of the USS Indianapolis, which should be the standout action sequence of the piece is nothing short of a mess: A couple of sailors who were fighting get trapped in the ship’s brig together but miraculously escape because they say a prayer and elsewhere another bloke is literally just wandering about in his pyjamas.

If I was working on this film I probably wouldn’t bother getting dressed in the morning either.

Subsequently Cage ends up alone on a dinghy on a soundstage which worked out nicely for both the budget and keeping his shoot days down to single or (possibly even decimal) figures and there’s a lot of people swimming back and forth shouting at each other whilst some stock footage of a shark occasionally rears its crudely edited head to eat people off-screen.

Cage also finds Tom Sizemore emaciated and missing a leg in a dinghy begginng for morphine… assumedly this is still part of the film and… oh fucksake you must get the Sizemore career joke by now.
Thomas Jane also pops up resembling an Action Man dressed as Errol Flynn which has melted a bit… And that description is basically as relevant as his role is.

Anyway whilst all that mess is going on Nicholas Cage is busy spontaneously diving out of shots that other actors are swimming into in an absurdly slapstick fashion whilst yelling about “duty.” It’s hilarious for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on and without doubt was the highlight of an otherwise clumsy and massively overly complex film which seems to have had its script shat out by a random wartime cliché generator.

If you think this review has gotten exhausting tough shit, because post rescue there’s a whole new film’s worth of historical fic..fac…faction to pack into the last twenty minutes of the picture / the last fiver of the budget.

The Government™ decide to stitch Nicholas Cage up with gross negligence for letting his CGI sink / making Ghost Rider and use a Japanese sailor who doesn’t need subtitles to do it. It’s a really interesting twist in the real life story so you can see why its given a whole thirty seconds to breathe here.

There’s also a whole bit where everyone reflects as older, wiser men on the horror of the incident using interviews with the real survivors… Why wasn’t the budget wasn’t just spent on making a documentary about a fascinating wartime incident? Oh that’s right Nicholas Cage still needs to pay that pesky six figure tax bill.

Nicolas Cage is back and in full straight-to-DVD glory with ‘USS Indianapolis’, a movie that tells the story of the attack on the eponymous US naval vessel by a Japanese submarine during World War II and events following the attack… Immediately it kind of feels like Cage may not have been the best choice for this movie.

Straight in, we get a glimpse of Captain Charles McVay (Nicholas Cage) decked out in full Naval/UPS uniform, ready to serve his country/deliver your package within 48-hours. We then move quickly on to meet his team of sailors who are drinking in bars whilst still wearing their all white uniforms/pyjamas in a typical movie depiction of sailors on leave. In another typical movie depiction of Americans they’re both shite at drinking and completely fucking annoying after doing one shot of Coors Light in that table-tennis ball game they love.

This semi-outrageous drinking inevitably leads to a fight amongst the sailors and, of course, the black guy has a knife.

In the midst of the inexplicable scuffle one of the pyjama wearing Spice Boys (Liverpool FC in the 90s) called Waxman (played by Brian Presley, who my girlfriend reliably informs me is of Beverly Hills, 90210 fame) loses an engagement ring in an obvious subplot to sensationalise the abhorrent shit-storm these men will have to face as the movie progresses.
The pirated version I was watching didn’t provide subtitles for the Japanese speaking parts but given how this movies has gone so far I’m guessing I’m not too far off in thinking they said stuff like Death To America, pass me the Sushi, something about Anime and a bit of old school yellow peril rhetoric.
For anyone who’s unsure of the story behind the USS Indianapolis, Cage’s narration basically gives the whole thing away in the first quarter of the movie, explaining that the ship is unlikely to get hit by a Japanese Submarine as it sails behind two US Submarines which will take out anything in the vessel’s way. If they do get hit, they’ll have 5 minutes to get off the ship – I wonder, what will happen next?
The Japanese are poised to attack from the off as their crew aikido kick their way through the red-light submarine (The red lights are to remind you they’re commies) with such speed and dexterity it makes the modern day Japanese stereotypes of Sailor Moon Cosplay while doing the peace sign in every photo ever look laughable.

Meanwhile on USS Indianapolis, they’re all getting obnoxiously sloshed and playing craps and the torpedo is just about to hit as someone rolls a snake-eyes – A possible nod to Cage’s pre-Ghost Rider glory years – The ship then gets the obligatory torpedo hit and the movie suddenly turns into a bile chundering purge of CGI which makes everyone’s first ever piss about with Microsoft PowerPoint’s moving images look state-of-the-art.

Someone’s arm gets turned into a Bunsen Burner.

Basically the US Navy are shit and whilst they were being shit at drinking, the Japanese were being all too aware that they were shit at drinking so remained sober and nailed them with a well good torpedo.

Now the Americans are running about with burnt bottoms and drowning in cages, morons.
After being launched out the vessel by a Backdraft that not even Kurt Russell and Billy Baldwin could have prevented (they probably could actually), Cage now finds himself in the drink getting head-butted by a shark, fresh from the taxidermist.
The Japanese can hear Cage is still alive over sonar: their mission to stop Cage from making films that will never be as good as Raising Arizona has failed. The movie then slips into sporadic and impromptu shark attacks now with Cage and Tom Sizemore flailing about on a kitchen sink. Sizemore, sans lower leg, waves external limb whilst asking cage in a very calm voice if he’s ‘Got anything to help with this’. He couldn’t be anymore unconvincing of a man who’s just lost his leg from the knee down.

Of course the sharks attack the raft with black sailors first and of course they’ve all congregated on the same raft as it would have been incredibly easy to get all the ship’s black crew members on the same raft after it exploded in real life and this is basically re-enacting real life.
It’s good that the sharks don’t attack when Christian hymns are being sung. God, bless America and nobody else, especially not the Japanese and sharks. Still marooned, Cage has managed to find that Face-Off machine to swap faces with Sizemore for his next acting part whilst he offers the crew some spam; he seriously sounds like he’s having a post-drugs-binge stroke instead of a man dying of starvation and fatigue.

The shark attacks continue, now getting ridiculous as one of the crew members leans off a raft to throw up into the waiting sharks open mouth, they’ve gone really Final Destination 7 with these attacks now. The shark attacks regularly keep cutting to the same shot of strawberry Ribena being diluted.
Let’s put a pin in the shark attacks for a minute as that half-baked love story has reared its ugly head, the one with the guy who’s going to marry his girlfriend and his mate who fancies her but that’s as far as their relationship has ever gone. I seriously don’t think the feeling is mutual. Her boyfriend (90210 guy) has been bitten by a shark and will hopefully die, so he’s now telling his mate to hook up with his wife to be as his dying wish and because that’s how relationships work.

The rescue team arrive in a plane landing which looks like Thunderbird 1 returning to Tracey Island and we don’t get to see Cage get wetted up by a shark. Back on dry land, Cage narrates that they ended the war by dropping an A-Bomb on Japan – No biggie – as though he was reading the ingredients list on a box of cereal. 90210’s mate is now proposing to his mates girlfriend and it’s as weird and as painful to watch as it sounds. Why does he and everyone else think it’s noble, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Cage has now got to go to court as the US Navy are looking for a scapegoat to why the ship went down but all I can think is, what on Earth is that hideous ring on Cage’s finger? In court, he gives a very matter-of-fact account of what happened, it wasn’t moving at all but everybody cried.
Though hurried, the ending was possibly the best part as it went to a brief interview with the real survivors and made me think this would have worked better as a documentary instead of an advert for Channel 5’s ‘Shark Week’. This movie was truly offensive to all survivors and their families.
In conclusion, the movie was a fantastic idea but I don’t think it could have been more poorly executed. An example of how this could have been made better would be to look at Clint Eastwood’s ‘Sully’, released earlier this year. Now I know this movie didn’t have the budget of ‘Sully’, the director, Van Peebles is no Clint Eastwood, Nick Cage is no Tom Hanks and Sizemore is no sinking plane (Though he was also upstaged by a sinking ship in this). But the way that story was told meant that it wasn’t a real-time account of what it was like sitting on the wing of the plane waiting for the rescue helicopter and ships to come and pick up the passengers, there was more to that story which made the plane incident believable, trimmed the fat on people saying they were cold and had wet feet and instead allowed the movie to make Captain Sully’s PTS believable where Cage’s was comedic, it made the court hearing a real journey into why it was being held and why Sully was being challenged, whereas in USS Indianapolis; it looked like a Snapchat story with a caption reading “Lets stitch up da Capt’n, LOL”.

The actual story of the USS Indianapolis has all the elements to make it as worthy a tale as ‘Sully’, or even a cracking coming of age tale about the 11-year-old boy who worked to get Captain McVay exonerated posthumously. Instead, the team behind this movie went the way of disaster movie in a haphazard cluster of ideas from Titanic, Sharknado & The Perfect Storm, resulting in something unmerciful to watch.
Clint, please come and give this story the movie it deserves.

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