Walter Hill's Southern Comfort is a potent example of how to make a good survival thriller.
Many reviewers compare the film to the well loved classic Deliverance, which also a firm favourite of mine. However whilst the two films share a common theme, they are quite unique in their own ways.
The story shows a routine exercise with the Louisiana National Guard, in a dense forest area. Powers Boothe plays Cpl. Hardin, newly transferred in from the Texas National Guard. Keith Carradine is Private Spencer, a chilled out and smooth talking part time soldier who takes things less seriously than most of his fellow soldiers. Heading up the section is Peter Coyote as Staff Sgt. Poole, who has a fairly minor role in the film, but still his appearance is welcome.
Things take a turn for the worse when the men decide to "borrow" some boats that the native Cajuns (French speaking ethnic group) own. After this we see the two sides pitted against each other, leaving the Guardsmen in a desperate fight for survival. What makes matters worse is that due to the non combat exercise the soldiers have mostly blanks and little live ammunition, this leaves them vulnerable to the Cajun attackers who know the terrain well, and are better equipped. It's clear from the start that most of the section have little to no combat experience.
We have a good mix of characters in the squad from the serious but lacking combat knowledge Sgt. Casper (Les Lannom), and Fred Ward (as Reece) who goes off the rails in a silent and dangerous way. Don't dismiss the cast members as cliché, they all fit a role well and portray a mix of individuals and how they might deal with a nightmare scenario they face.
Carradine and Boothe command most screen time and do a good job of it too. Look out for Brion James (Bladerunner) as one of the native trappers. Walter Hill provides solid direction, a good script and screen play back up what is a strong story and one which does immerse the viewer. The soundtrack is also fitting and provides the backdrop to the Southern region.
The film works on many levels it slots together nicely in a way few survival films do. The ending is good, and has some interesting camera work..and we see a good show down between the few men who remain v the Cajuns, tense stuff and it grips your attention from the start to the finish.
If you're wondering which is better this or Deliverance... don't, they're both fine films and examples of the genre that stand out. To have one without the other would be a tragedy as both have something to offer viewers.
on 10 June 2000
Walter Hill is probably one of America's finest,but most under-rated Action director. Southern Comfort,alongside The Warriors, 48hrs,and Streets Of Fire, is one of his best pieces. Tightly edited and broodingly atmospheric, it's greatest strength is it's all male ensemble cast headed by Keith Carradine, Powers Booth and Fred Ward. The script is economical, self deprecating and acerbic. Ry Cooder's rural score is haunting. The scattered outburst's of violence are quite poetic. Southern Comfort is a reminder of how potent American films once were.
on 4 July 2006
This is a film about incompetence more than anything else, and it's not too different to Walter Hill's earlier film: 'The Warriors'. Nine men being hunted relentlessly through a hostile environment, and being picked off one-by-one. The action barely lets up from the first fifteen minutes. There's almost as many arguments as there are in 'Who's afraid of Virginia Wolf' as the bickering characters battle their way to survival. Often compared to John Boorman's 'Deliverance', this is film-making at it's brilliance to equal the latter. Casper is my favourite character because he behaves like a spoilt child and reminds me of so many incompetent team leaders I've known in the past. Ry Cooder's score set's the atmosphere throughout. The knife in the groin still makes my eyes water even after about thirty views. One last comment: If these are America's finest reserve - God help them!!
on 3 February 2013
5 stars all the way for me.sound and picture quality are outstanding.
This film is a classic i recommend it to everyone,you will not be disappointed
on 8 September 2000
Always in danger of the accusation of being 'Deliverance-lite', Walter Hill's mean and moody look at the downside of macho heroics is nevertheless a brilliantly made and exciting action thriller, not afraid to have some ideas in its head. Some National Guardsmen are on routine manoeuvres in the Louisiana Bayou, and after some accidental shots are fired at Cajun locals, find themselves fighting for their lives in the swamps.
Were it not for its similarity to Boorman's film, this would seem a masterpiece, as tough character actors like Fred Ward, Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine squabble their way through various chases and standoffs deliberately modelled on Vietnam. In the end, because 'Deliverance' went into full-on nightmare, it sticks more in the mind. But few of Walter Hill's movies are dull, and this is tense and nasty, with superbly atmospheric camerawork and a typically vivid score from Hill's frequent musical collaborator Ry Cooder.
Not many features on this DVD, but it deserves a place in your collection, either as a less painful version of 'Deliverance's harsh message, or a brutally effective suspenser in its own right.
A 'no nonsense' 'no frills' 'no holds barred' gritty and intense journey.
A nine-man military unit code name 'Bravo' set out on an exercise in the swamp lands of 'Louisiana'
Things soon take a sinister turn after taking liberties with the 'local trappers' equipment.
Fighting among themselves isn't gonna help, the troop with much equipment lost and only one box of real ammo between them are in a struggle to survive.
Finding their way out of the swamp whilst being hunted down is almost impossible.............their only hope ........search and rescue, the soldiers are way over due.
Upsetting the trappers was not a good move.
Well worth a viewing.
An allegory of Vietnam, very much indebted to Boorman's brilliant 'Deliverance', in which a bunch of largely useless National Guardsmen from boondocks' Louisiana go on exercise into the bayou and, in an appalling blunder, manage to lose their Captain Poole and alienate the locals almost immediately. The elusive Cajun locals are led by the especially menacing, much missed Brion James, and harry the soldiers, now commanded by the less-than-competent Casper, and symbolically armed mostly with blanks! One Texan outsider, Powers Boothe, is incredulous at the stupidity and fractiousness of those around him, allying himself with the bright and canny Keith Carradine, one-sane-Louisianan, then they struggle through the increasingly nasty jungle tailed by increasingly resourceful, dangerous locals. The killing is spectacular and haunting, Cooder's music broods quite beautifully and the bayou has an increasingly deadly beauty while the motley crew of idiots are replete with quotable quotes, (yes it's one of THOSE films), and die in highly ingenious, intimidating ways. The dumb Black, dimmer coach, hapless Poole, nasty Fred Ward, cynically engaging Carradine, the appalled, sane Powers Boothe and the elegant Peter Coyote aid and abet director Walter Hill at the height of his powers. It ends in the disembowelling of a pig (as if our boys don't know what lurks) a Cajun fiesta and a finale worthy of one the decade's best films.. Essential viewing, managing to shrug off its debts to Boorman to make a sly Vietnam film of great cinematic power..
on 6 January 2014
Southern Comfort (1981) is an American action/thriller film directed by Walter Hill and written by Michael Kane, and Hill and his longtime collaborator David Giler. It stars Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, T. K. Carter, Franklyn Seales, and Peter Coyote. The film, set in 1973, features a Louisiana Army National Guard squad of nine on weekend maneuvers in rural bayou country as they antagonize some local Cajun people and become hunted.
Members of an undisciplined patrol of Louisiana National Guardsmen are meeting in the bayou swamps for weekend manoeuvres. Corporal Hardin (Powers Boothe), a cynical transfer from the Texas National Guard, is disgusted with the behaviour and arrogance of his new squad. A married man, he wants no part of a date with prostitutes that Private Spencer (Keith Carradine) has waiting for the men. Nevertheless, he is befriended by the amiable Spencer, the two seeming to agree that they are the only level-headed soldiers in the squad.
This film starred the following actors as their respective characters:
Keith Carradine as Pvt. Spencer;
Powers Boothe as Cpl. Hardin;
Fred Ward as Cpl. Reece;
Franklyn Seales as Pvt. Simms;
T. K. Carter as Pvt. Cribbs;
Lewis Smith as Pvt. Stuckey;
Les Lannom as Sgt. Casper;
Peter Coyote as Staff Sgt. Poole;
Alan Autry as Cpl. "Coach" Bowden (billed as Carlos Brown);
Brion James as Cajun trapper;
Sonny Landham as hunter;
Dewey Balfa, traditional musician, in a cameo role as a Cajun singer and fiddle player;
Marc Savoy, traditional musician, in a cameo role as a Cajun accordion player;
Frank Savoy, traditional musician, in a cameo role as a Cajun singer and triangle player.
I never saw Southern Comfort before getting it on DVD (like Deliverance, I got this film as a Christmas present for my dad after he heard from a colleague at work that the film was supposed to be very good, and I tell you something, he's right about that). Southern Comfort is a very entertaining film which has a similar plot to the classic 1972 film Deliverance as both of these films see soldiers fighting for survival. Very highly recommended.
on 5 January 2014
Very much on a par with other movies of the era such as The Deer Hunter and Deliverance, Walter Hill's (now cult) film is a no-nonsense allegory for the experiences of many US soldiers in Vietnam, during that infamously doomed campaign. Powers Booth and Keith Carradine stand out in a top-notch ensemble cast that also includes Fred West and Peter Coyote. After blundering into an unnecessary confrontation with a group of Cajun locals whilst on manoeuvres with the National Guard in Louisiana, a platoon of undisciplined, and frankly maverick guardsmen realise they have bitten-off considerably more than they can chew, and subsequently find themselves running for their lives, as the Cajuns deploy a series of macabre traps to gain revenge for the theft of their canoes.
The various idiosyncrasies of the platoon make for a lively and at times bonkers film, whilst Carradine and Boothe gradually bond, as the sanest in the group by quite some way. Early scenes see the various mens' personalities sketched out, but once the conflict arises we are deep into Deliverance territory, and it quickly becomes apparent that the hunters will stop at nothing; the movie then becomes a frantic race for the soldiers to find the highway, before they are all butchered mercilessly in the swampy jungles of darkest Louisiana.
on 20 November 2015
On the surface, Walter Hill's Southern Comfort is your standard survival/war movie, a gormless platoon of soldiers getting lost in territory and then picked off one by one by a wily foe.
Scratch away, and Southern Comfort becomes more than your usual, standard action fare. This is Hill's take on the Vietnam war, but this time Americans are confronting fellow Americans, with the Cajun woodsmen standing in for the North Vietnamese, the hapless platoon's technical superiority no match for the Cajun's woodcraft.
As with any good war film, the true heart lies away from the action scenes, the interplay between the platoon members switches from cosy familiarity to weariness, to hostility, as the fight for survival becomes more pronounced, Hill cleverly subverting the action genre tropes, as the pillars of American society crumble, and the odd balls rise to the occasion.
The cinematography is also worth noting - the great primordial swamp of Louisiana never looking more dismal...or green.
With a great Ry Cooder soundtrack adding some icing to the cake, Southern Comfort is Hill's masterpiece, the high watermark of a distinguished career.