Wednesday, February 8, 2012


(June 1987, U.S.)

I can still remember my initial reaction when I first saw the movie poster for Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET (I didn't even know the film had been made). My thought was, "Not again!" You see, Oliver Stone's PLATOON (1986) had just spent the better part of many months dominating the screen as the quintessential film about Vietnam and had even won the Oscar for best picture of the year. So why have another Vietnam film so soon? Yeah, but people, we're talking about Stanley FUCKING Kubrick here! Like there was any chance in Heaven or Hell I'd miss his next film!

From the moment the film begins, it's very clear that in its own particular style, FULL METAL JACKET is almost nothing like PLATOON. Sure, it's about Vietnam combat, but it's about so much more in that we go back to the very beginning of Marine recruit training when these men are fresh young meat eager to discover their inner killer instinct and be sent into combat, or "the shit", as they refer to it. From the instant that their Senior Drill Instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (played by actor and real life former Marine drill instructor R. Lee Ermey) starts talking (shouting, actually!), he's got you by the balls and you're hoping to Hell he won't let go! The dialogue is just that fucking good as only the great Stanley Kubrick can deliver it. Hartman is, without a doubt, the most hard-ass character I've ever seen on screen whose sole purpose in the Marine Corp is to create killers by employing harsh draconian tactics . Never is he more determined to do that than when training and abusing Private Leonard Lawrence (nicknamed "Gomer Pyle" and played by Vincent D'Onofrio), a bumbling overweight idiot who can't seem to stop making mistakes and getting the rest of his squad into trouble. The abuse takes its toll, though, when "Pyle" becomes very unstable, and frankly, quite frightening looking just before he kills Hartman and then takes his own life. Take a look...

The experience in Vietnam begins as more of a vacation for many of these men. Life is easy and even boring as their only real challenge for the moment is haggling price with the local whore ("Me so horny!). Not for long, though. Kubrick or no Kubrick, this is the part that becomes more like the traditional combat film, though much of the fighting is concentrated in the city ruins rather than the jungle. The men we watch are hard men who are determind to kill their enemies with the greatest of ease in order to stay alive. It would appear that their killer instincts are alive and well in Vietnam. Ironically, though, it's at a pivotal moment at the end of the film when the men must decide if they're going to heartlessly execute a female sniper that their personal conscience and morality begin to conflict with what they're been trained to do. Watch carefully, the look on Private "Joker's" (played by Matthew Modine) face as he stares down at the girl and struggles with what he knows he HAS to do and what he feels would be the more human thing to do. I suppose sexism has a funny way of playing with our minds in any fashion. In the end, though, the killer instinct wins.

You remember how I described the film grabbing you from the very beginning and never letting go? I don't think I could possibly be more accurate than that. Even at the end, when the fighting is over and the men are returning to their base, it's impossible not to feel intruiged and experience a strong sense of awe and wonder as they march together harmonizing the 1950s theme from "The Mickey Mouse Club". It's a stupid song, yes, but the spirit of the men and the joy they feel because they're still alive at the end of the day is impossible to ignore. Then, just when you think it's all over and you'll come down from this cinematic high, the end credits begin to the Rolling Stones "Paint it Black" and you're still sitting there, unable to leave the theater until the lights come on. THAT, people, is the power of the immortal Stanley Kubrick and FULL METAL JACKET!

Man, I really miss him!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Sergeant Hartman: "I am Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and last words out of your filthy sewers will be "Sir". Do you maggots understand that?"
Recruits: "Sir! Yes Sir!"
Hartman: "Bullshit! I can't hear you! Sound off like you got a pair!"
Recruits: "Sir! Yes Sir!"
Hartman: "If you ladies leave my island, if you survive recruit training, you will be a weapon. You will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that day you are pukes! You are the lowest form of life on Earth! You are not even human fucking beings! You are nothing but unorganized grabastic pieces of amphibian shit! Because I am hard, you will not like me! But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard but I am fair. There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers, kikes, wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless. And my orders are to weed out all non-hackers who do not pack the gear to serve in my beloved Corps. Do you maggots understand that?"
Recruits: "Sir! Yes Sir!"
Hartman: "Bullshit! I can't hear you!"
Recruits: "Sir! Yes Sir!"
Hartman: "What's yer name, scumbag?"
Private Brown: "Sir! Private Brown, Sir!"
Hartman: Bullshit! From now on, yer "Private Snowball"! Do you like that name?"
Brown: "Sir! Yes Sir!"
Hartman: "Well, there's one thing that you won't like, Private Snowball - they don't serve fried chicken and watermelon on a daily basis in my mess hall!"
Private Joker: "That you, John Wayne? Is this me?"
Hartman: "Who said that? Who the fuck said that? Who's the slimy little communist shit twinkly-toes cocksucker down here who just signed his own death warrent? Nobody, huh? The fairy fucking godmother said it! I'm fucking standing! I will P.T. you all until you fucking die! I'll P.T. you until your assholes are sucking buttermilk! Was it YOU, you scroungy little fuck?"
Private Cowboy: "Sir! No Sir!"
Hartman: "You little piece-a-shit! You look like a fucking worm! I'll bet it was you!"
Cowboy: "Sir! No Sir!"
Joker: "Sir! I said it Sir!"
Hartman: "Well, no shit. What have we got here? A fucking comedian! Private Joker! I admire your honesty. Hell, I like you. You can come over to my house and fuck my sister!"

I probably could've kept going with this, you know. Every single word that comes out of R. Lee Ermey's mouth in this film is priceless!


  1. "I want to put my tube-steak into your sister; what'll you take in trade?"

    Of all the quotable quotes in the movie, what does it say that this one stands out in my mind?

    Anyway, this is one of the most original, profound, disturbing, humerous, and generally entertaining war films I've seen. Def. one of my top five (well above "Cross of Iron", you'll be relieved to know, Eric!).

    Unfortunately, it now looks like the war film landscape is degenerating back to the propagandistic, idealistic glory-hoars that were force-fed to us pre-1965 ( read 'Act of Valor').
    We need more Stanley Kubricks and Full Metal Jackets!


  2. Kubrick copied no one! Today everybody copies everybody! We live in a world of FORGERY...and very bad ones, too!