Given the title, you might think Justin Lin's disappointing follow-up to his solo feature directing debut, BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (2003), was an expose of life in a U.S. military institution a la AN OFFICE AND A GENTLEMAN (1982) or TAPS (1981), but it's really just ROCKY in gleaming dress whites. Growing up across the river from the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Jake Huard (a startlingly beefy James Franco) always dreamt of one day attending the prestigious and highly rigorous school where today's promising plebes are turned into the naval officers of tomorrow. Since high-school graduation, however, reality has taken precedence over dreams: Jake's been welding battleships at an Annapolis shipyard under his father, Bill (Brian Goodman), while indulging his passion for boxing at Friday-night smokers with his best friend and fellow "rivet," A.J. (Jim Parrack). Opportunity comes knocking one gray afternoon when Lieutenant Burton (Donnie Wahlberg) arrives at the shipyard to tell Jake there's a last-minute opening in the academy's freshman class and Jake's application — one of the 50,000 the Naval Academy receives each year — has been accepted. Jake bids farewell to his family — who don't have much faith that he'll stick it out past Christmas — and soon finds himself a lowly rivet among the nation's best and brightest future brass, including his new roommates Loo (Roger Fan), Estrada (Wilmer Calderon) and Nance (Vicellous Shannon), a chubby plebe who actually makes Jake look good. Jake soon has a run-in with his tough commanding officer, Midshipman Lt. Cole (Tyrese Gibson), who quickly makes it clear that Jake is not his idea of Naval Academy material and proceeds to make Jake's freshman year hell. Jake, however, finds one place where a plebe can kick the tail of his commanding officer and get away with it: the annual Brigades boxing championship. Despite the numbing number of motivational speeches set against the swelling strains of martial music, Lin's film has little to do with military life — odd for a film produced and set during a time when his country is actually at war. It is instead a mundane boxing movie, and once again Lin has a hard time putting across cohesive, believable characters. To all appearances, Jake is discipline and perseverance personified — his body alone says as much — and yet we're asked to believe that he's a quitter who turns tail when the going gets rough. And what are we to make of Ali (Jordana Brewster), Jake's superior officer who apparently has no problem openly flirting with a subordinate? The only character who resonates at all is Nance, and that's largely due to the performance of Shannon, a charismatic, talented young actor who'll hopefully move on to much better things.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Given the title, you might think Justin Lin's disappointing follow-up to his solo feature directing debut, BETTER LUCK TOMORROW (2003), was an expose of life in a U.S. military institution a la AN OFFICE AND A GENTLEMAN (1982) or TAPS (1981), but it's real… (more)