Over twenty five years after the fact and Maverick has become a drunk who makes hasty decisions under the influence, Goose has become a bit more reckless and still puts women before anything else, and Iceman's role has been reduced significantly as his smug arrogance is only felt in a handful of lines. What's that you say? Red Tails isn't the urban retelling of Top Gun? Well, you could have fooled me. It's not that it makes much difference though. No matter how you look at it, Red Tails doesn't really have much of anything to offer.
At the peak of World War II, African American pilots are considered the lowest of the low. They're considered to be incapable of performing their tasks to their country to the fullest and are given leftover missions that don't even qualify as scraping the bottom of the barrel. The Tuskegee training program is no different as the entire squadron is mostly reduced to shooting down trucks, trains, and perhaps a cow every now and then. That is until Colonel A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard) succeeds in letting the higher ups give his men a chance and they take full advantage of the opportunity.
Red Tails feels really cheesy as soon as that quote is shown in the opening scene. The movie has a $58 million budget, but it certainly doesn't feel that way considering the opening credits. The amalgamation of planes ripping through the sky and tearing each other to pieces feels like a distraction or a cover up for the rest of your senses. Try to pay attention to the credits, how plain they are, and how cheap they look. That along with the score that feels like it was ripped straight out of a stereotypical action film from the 90s doesn't really seem like the type of tone they were going for here. The acting isn't much better as stiffness and monotony seem to be what they were aiming for. The Tuskegee airmen do begin to get a bit more comfortable in their roles as the movie progresses. David Oyelowo takes Lightning the furthest as far as Easy's (Nate Parker) squad goes, but they certainly seem their best in the face of tragedy. Terrence Howard has a few great moments, as well. Specifically his "highest expectations" scene he shares with Joe "Lightning" Little. But it isn't enough to save a second-rate film.
The script is very dry. I don't mean dry humor I mean about as pleasant as trying to listen to somebody with a mouthful of saltine crackers. It feels so stale and again contributes to that 90s atmosphere I mentioned earlier. Keep an ear out for the Americans and how third grade they sound. The dialogue along with the monotonous tone spread out amongst every actor in the film makes everyone come off as a robot. "These cows are armed," is a line that's actually used in the movie. There are a few lines that are almost decent. Winky's (Leslie Odom Jr) line where he says, "Every time I close that canopy I feel like I'm closing the lid to my own coffin," is surprisingly good. It gives the momentary belief that things may turn around, but they never do. Smokey's (Ne-Yo) "colored" conversation at the bar is the most amusing thing Red Tails has to offer, as well. There are many lame attempts at humor that just make you groan. Black Jesus is perhaps the worst joke of all, considering how things turn out for Deke (Marcus T. Paulk).
I was expecting Red Tails to at least offer a fair amount of eye candy, but the special effects weren't really all that impressive at all. There's a train explosion early on in the film that's been shown in nearly every trailer and TV spot. It's pretty much on the same scale as the train crash in Super 8, but it isn't nearly as spectacular. That's kind of weird considering Super 8 was $8 million dollars cheaper than Red Tails when it comes to its budget. What ruined it for me was that sloppy zoom-in effect that's relied on as a crutch the entire movie. The Tuskegee airmen will be in the midst of a heated air battle with the Germans. The camera would pan up to try and capture the action, but it would zoom-in (or out on a few occasions) nearly every time to try and show you who should be keeping track of. It just came off as sloppy camera work to me, as if they didn't have the proper camera placement for the scene and tried to adjust it accordingly. There are several things that don't really add up in the movie either. One of the main ones for me was that at one point, Easy tells everyone that there's no time to celebrate a completed mission and to return to base because they're low on fuel. But can you guess what they do in the very next scene? They showboat and celebrate. Not listening to your superiors and still getting praised for it is an overbearing theme in the movie, as well.
George Lucas fought for 23 years to get this made, but after viewing it you'll more than likely be convinced that the man has grown senile over the years and that retirement from Hollywood is the best thing for him. The turnout for the screening was insane and you can bet that Red Tails will more than likely make a killing at the box office, but there's no way in hell it passes as a good or even decent piece of cinema. Amateur cinematography, a boring script, terrible acting, and the fate of certain characters being extremely predictable (you can guess Lightning's fate around the time things start getting serious with Sophia), Red Tails is the equivalent of a stand-up act that gets booed off the stage. It is just awful. I was left wishing the entire movie was just Cuba Gooding Jr lifting a pipe to his lips, pulling it away, and pretending to smoke the entire film. If it was just those clips strung together with no dialogue and that dubstep track from the TV spot in the background, I could have at least gotten a good laugh out of it.
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