“The Men Who Stare at Goats” – 2009. Dir. Grant Heslov

With George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor, Robert Patrick and Stephen Lang.

“Lieutenant Colonel Django used funds from the project’s black budget to procure prostitutes…”

“That’s a lie!”

“…and drugs for himself and his men.”

“That… well, the hooker thing is definitely a lie.”

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” has to be one of the most disappointing films I have ever seen in my entire life. The story is of a down on his luck journalist (Ewan McGregor) whose wife leaves him for his one armed editor, and he fleas to Iraq to cover the war. He runs into Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney) who was trained as a “Jedi warrior” by the US Government. The two embark on a road trip to who knows where, and during their road trip Clooney reflects back to his recruitment to the “Earth Army” where the squad was lead by Jeff Bridges (in a “Big Lebowski”-esq role). Kevin Spacey plays the hard-on who is trying to derail Bridges and take control of the unit.

This is one of the best acting ensembles in film, but it is utterly wasted on a very incoherent story that lacks narrative. The exception to the wasted cast is Stephen Lang who I thought was downright hilarious and made me laugh with each frame he was in. I’ve always been a pretty big fan of Lang’s, ever since I saw him in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and “Crime Story”. George Clooney is the second best part, he’s goofy and insane, and he’s just having fun. To me Jeff Bridges was the real let down. I thought it was going to be fun watching him portray another beatnik. It’s not that he does a bad job; it’s just that the character is poorly written.

Ewan McGregor’s character isn’t needed in the story, and I find his poor American accent tiring. He just doesn’t bring anything to the film. The “Star Wars” references and jokes go over the top. Yeah I get it; McGregor was Obi-Wan Kenobi in the new “Star Wars” trilogy – enough already. Robert Patrick was good for the brief two minutes that he was in, and Kevin Spacey…well…Kevin Spacey. I don’t expect anything from him anymore. I think he’s become so unfathomably arrogant since “American Beauty”. I know he’s running the Old Vic in London and that’s cool, it’s really cool. But come on, has he even gotten close to the talent he holds with any of his films post “Beauty”? “Beyond the Sea” is the only exception.

Yeah the movie is funny at times. The back and forth between Bridges and Spacey is pretty good for the small scene of the military tribunal, and it is funny to see Clooney with a bad wig on but you can’t help but think couldn’t they have gotten a better script? I know its Grant Heslov’s first attempt at directing, but you can’t blame him. He’s been Clooney’s partner since they met on 2000’s live television remake of “Fail Safe” (which is EXCELLENT). He’s worked hand in hand with Clooney on all of his projects since then. It’s just not a very good movie.

I feel bad bagging on the movie because these are all actors I love and respect, especially Bridges. It’s just so incredibly frustrating watching this train wreck of a film. You should expect it to be good with just the cast alone. The one thing I do like about it is imagine how much fun these actors had all working together? They must have had some pretty good times. I found myself not wanting to see it again, aside from maybe a few Stephen Lang parts (the part where he’s reading the book in his backyard about the Russian’s putting cigarettes out on puppies and the look of disgust on his face. Or when Bridges is lecturing the men about peace and harmony and Lang is sitting with a huge smile on his face holding a flower). The fact that the film was loosely based on a true story does intrigue me, but I just can’t imagine how much of it is based on actual events. The last scene of the film was so fucking brutal I couldn’t believe it. I’m really sorry, but skip this one.

Review: 6/10

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

1 thought on ““The Men Who Stare at Goats” – 2009. Dir. Grant Heslov”

  1. I saw this in the theaters when it came out and it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. You’re right about a waste of a great cast. As far as the ending goes, I can’t even recall what happened – which probably is a good indicator how bad it was. It is unfortunate, as it had a lot of promise in the trailers.

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