Movie Review: Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

“You been freeze-dried or doin’ hard time?” (7.5/10)

HeartbreakThe poignant credit frames, accompanied by a drum roll, which show black and white footage of soldiers from the forgotten meatgrinder that preceded Vietnam—the Korean War—fade into a scene in a big city jail, where Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tom ‘Gunny’ Highway (Clint Eastwood) is holding court… profanely. No kidding, the expletive-laden, obscenity-charged language in this movie from start to finish is not only fresh and funny—I never knew there were so many words for sex organs and sex acts—it would leave half an hour of dead silence in any showing of the film on commercial television.

As I was saying in my review of Charlie Wilson’s War, like Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood almost always makes a movie that’s entertaining. Heartbreak Ridge is no exception. Further, if you can put aside your expectations and stereotypes of a 1980s Clint Eastwood film, you may discover some fairly deep character work in this homage to the American soldier-warrior. For one thing, two world-class actresses bolster the give and take: multiple Academy-award nominee Marsha Mason plays Gunny’s volatile, long-suffering ex-wife and Academy-award winner Eileen Heckart (Butterflies are Free, 1972) plays the widow of Stony Jackson, the leader of Highway’s battalion who was killed in action at “Heartbreak Ridge.” Continue reading