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Clubbed Demi-SEAL

G.I. Jane
Phil Bray

I Got Yer Jack Palance, Right Here: A buffed and polished Demi Moore does 50 push-ups the hard way just because she can in 'G.I. Jane.'

'G.I. Jane' is a tribute to Demi Moore's personal trainer

By Richard von Busack

DEMI MOORE reaches her apotheosis in G.I. Jane, playing a modern Joan of Arc who shaves her own head. (Did the mad woman think she was Falconetti?) Those who admire Moore as a marvel of modern technology, respecting how her much-displayed body was a Franken-steinian triumph over aging and childbearing, can now see the pain underneath such body manipulations. Two-thirds of G.I. Jane is set in boot camp, and we're not spared a minute of it; the drilling seems to take place in real time.

Moore's character, Jordan O'Neil, is not a G.I., but a naval officer who works as a satellite systems analyst, a sort of female version of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan. At the request of a tough-talking Texas senator (Anne Bancroft), O'Neil applies to the Navy SEALs in order to serve as a test case for other female recruits who want to become commandos.

In an earlier era, G.I. Jane might have been meant as a recruiting poster, another one of those movies about the character-building quality of the military--it comes complete with the trademark shot of the troops jogging soulfully in the morning mist. But director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise) takes the other tactic, filming the mud, the slime, the bruises, the humiliations, the starved troops forced by their master sergeants to eat out of garbage cans.

The low point is a long interrogation sequence in which O'Neil is tormented to the point of rape, beaten and slammed through walls by her own drill instructor; the sound-effects slugs indicate someone striking a pair of Black Angus bulls together. Scott must have intended all of this bigger-than-life agony to be subversive--who but a maniac, or an S & M bottom, would want to enlist after seeing this kind of torment?

Naturally, O'Neil thrives under the torture, using her spare time to do extra-credit exotic push-ups (once a sign of derangement, as in Taxi Driver, now an emblem of dedication). And there is a last-minute jaunt to Libya to go plug some Arabs so she'll get a decoration.

Some people will consider G.I. Jane a feminist-empowerment movie, but it's really a fantasy of desexualization. O'Neil loses her hair and her periods (through so much exercise). Her crowning moment and big laugh-getter is when she finally has the guts to bellow out, "Suck my dick," although we're reassured that she isn't lesbian--isn't "batting for the other side" in the pretty phrase Bancroft's character uses.

G.I. Jane makes you feel something unusual--you feel sorry for the Armed Forces, watching them being represented this way. There have been films that handle the dichotomy of the cruelty of basic training and the humanity that survives it, but G.I. Jane champions pain for the sake of pain, as a vessel to elevate its deluded star into new masochistic heights. The whole terrible movie seems to be a metaphor for Moore's workout program.

Moore, the Concrete Kitten, used to have a game face that she'd display when she was trying to be especially feisty; now her kisser has hardened into a rocklike mask that tops that flawless, inhuman body. As the star of a movie inspired by a plastic 1960s toy, she does Hasbro proud.


G.I. Jane (R; 125 min.), directed by Ridley Scott, written by David Twohy and Danielle Alexandra, photographed by Hugh Johnson and starring Demi Moore and Anne Bancroft.

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of Metro.

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