Apparently usurping South American drug cartels as the B-movie villains of choice, the Iraqis get another low-budget bashing in THE HUMAN SHIELD, a routine but capable action thriller directed by genre veteran Ted Post.
A prologue recounts how American advisor Doug Matthews (Michael Dudikoff) helped train the Iraqi military in tactics during their war against Ayatollah Khomeini only to object when Iraqi commander Ali Dallal (Steve Inwood) turns those tactics against unarmed Iraqi civilians, presumably the Kurds,
who oppose Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In preventing his summary execution of an elderly woman and a baby, Matthews dishonors Dallal by cutting his face. The action picks up with the evacuation of Americans from Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. At the airport, Dallal orders Doug's brother
Ben (Tommy Hinkley) to be held as a hostage. After running into inaction from the US government Doug takes matters into his own hands, sneaking back into Iraq to free his brother.
He soon learns that the woman he had fallen in love with during his previous stay, Lila (Hana Azoulay-Hasfari), had married Dallal to secure Doug's freedom after his previous run-in with Dallal. Now, with the help of her sympathetic Iraqi guards, Lila does what she can to help Doug evade Dallal's
wrath and free Ben. Eventually Dallal learns of Lila's collaboration, tries to imprison her in their home and schedules Ben's immediate execution where he's being held, in an Iraqi chemical weapons plant. Breaking free of his own captors, Doug frees Lila before going to the plant, where he frees
Ben before killing Dallal and blowing up the plant.
Hampered by a ham-handed, hole-laden screenplay, THE HUMAN SHIELD nevertheless is remarkably sturdy action fare, with an attention to character rare in the B-movie arena. Dudikoff (AVENGING FORCE, AMERICAN NINJA 2), one of the more engagingly low-key B action stars, is appropriately cast in a film
in which the real protagonists are the Iraqi characters who help him at great personal risk and in some cases at the cost of their lives. This is not the typical low-budget rip-off of the RAMBO movies in which big, tough Americans come in and save small, helpless natives from cartoonish monsters.
Here, there's nothing idealistic about Doug's mission. He's there to save his brother and get out just as, in Post's earlier Vietnam drama GO TELL THE SPARTANS, the Americans came in to accomplish a seemingly simple mission and get out.
As with the earlier film, THE HUMAN SHIELD becomes more complex as it goes along rather than building to a simple climax. For one thing, Doug is an evident amateur at covert infiltration. He draws attention to himself repeatedly with his ineptitude and is rescued by Iraqis who are beaten, raped
and slaughtered for their trouble. The villain, Dallal, is an oaf and a monster but one with beliefs and a code of honor that leads him to revenge. In terms of the screenplay, one might question, to no avail, why Dallal waits until Ben is about to leave before he begins tormenting him or why Lila
didn't use her sympathetic guards to get away from Dallal once Doug was safely out of the country.
If nothing else, however, THE HUMAN SHIELD demonstrates, as do other truly memorable action films, that a little thoughtful attention to character and theme and the respect for the audience they imply can compensate for a multitude of lesser sins. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Apparently usurping South American drug cartels as the B-movie villains of choice, the Iraqis get another low-budget bashing in THE HUMAN SHIELD, a routine but capable action thriller directed by genre veteran Ted Post. A prologue recounts how American ad… (more)