Writer-director John Milius seems to have a lot of important thoughts he'd like to impart with his new action-adventure film, Farewell to the King--but the only message you're likely to get is, You Can't Avoid History.
That observation floats to the top of this murky mess only because it's repeated three times in a period of about four minutes. The first time, I suppose, is for the intellectuals, the second time is for the hard-of-hearing, and the third is for the forgetful.
The film is based on a nineteen-year-old French best seller by Pierre Schoendoerffer, but Milius' screenplay draws on so many other macho-mythmaking sources (from Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim to Conan the Barbarian) I doubt the novelist would recognize his own material.
Set in the Pacific during World War II, Farewell to the King stars Nick Nolte in the impossible role of a G.I. who deserts into the jungles of Borneo and discovers a tribe of savage headhunters. Eventually, Nolte becomes their king, determined to protect them from the barbarities of civilization . . . until the real world intervenes in the form of the Japanese invasion, and Nolte must lead his adopted people into the war he left behind.
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Obviously, he couldn't avoid history.
And once you've bought your ticket, you won't be able to avoid all the cliches, philosophical mumbo jumbo, sluggish action scenes and comic-book dialogue ("Blood must be answered by blood") that Milius ladles on the tale.
My message? Even if you can't avoid history, avoid history, avoid history, you can avoid Farewell to the King. Do it as soon as possible.