There are some people who claim that Walter Hill has never made a bad movie. While I’m not quite sure if that’s 100% true, simply because I have only seen a few of his movies, I must say that every Walter Hill movie that I have seen has been fantastic. Southern Comfort continues that trend.
Sometimes dismissed by people as nothing more than a riff on Deliverance, Southern Comfort definitely covers the same ground but does so in a very different manner thanks to the fact that the central characters are members of the Louisiana National Guard. Yes, this film casts a bunch of actors as military types who get a bit cocky while travelling through some swampland and end up being targeted by some dangerous Cajun hunters. It soon seems to become a case of bullets versus booby traps but that’s not all there is to it, the endangered men can’t help fighting amongst each other while they should be co-operating to stay alive.
This is one of those times when the review is both too easy and yet also bloody difficult. Everything is just put together perfectly and adding to the praise that the film has already received over the years seems quite redundant. As ever, I’ll give it a try though.
I’ll start with the script, by Walter Hill, Michael Kane and David Giler. It’s a damn fine piece of work. Every character develops throughout the movie and almost every line of dialogue says something beyond just the words being spoken. Every directorial choice made by Hill complements the material and the performances are uniformly fantastic. Powers Boothe is the new man in the team and he joins the group at the very beginning of the movie. He doesn’t exactly warm to everyone but he can take solace in the fact that Peter Coyote seems to be a capable leader and Keith Carradine isn’t as senselessly gung-ho as most of the other guys. Fred Ward may be a bit over the top but he’s still very good, as are Franklyn Seales,T. K. Carter, Lewis Smith, Les Lannom and Alan Autry. The fact that Brion James gets to play a one-armed Cajun hunter just adds to the many delights.
There is plenty of atmosphere dripping from almost every scene, thanks in no small part to the wonderful score from Ry Cooder, plenty of tension and a fair amount of violence and bloodshed. It falls just short of perfection (mainly because of that eye-rolling turn from Fred Ward) but easily holds up as classic action thriller, mixing the required machismo with plenty to think about.
Southern Comfort hits Blu-ray for the first time on the 26th of November. The picture and sound quality are very good but the disc lacks any substantial extra features. The one main bonus is an interview with Walter Hill entitled “Will He Live Or Will He Die” that runs for about 45 minutes. It’s enjoyable but also frustrating because it makes viewers wish that more was packed on to the disc.
DIRECTOR: WALTER HILL
WRITER: MICHAEL KANE, WALTER HILL, DAVID GILER
CAST: KEITH CARRADINE, POWERS BOOTHE, FRED WARD, FRANKLYN SEALES, T.K. CARTER, LEWIS SMITH, LES LANNOM, PETER COYOTE, ALAN AUTRY, BRION JAMES
RUNTIME: 106 MINS APPROX