August 25, 1997 12:00 PM

Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Anne Bancroft

Like the late Joan Crawford, who made up in sheer determination what she may have lacked in acting ability, Demi Moore has never been afraid of letting an audience see just how hard she will work for her keep. In G.I. Jane, playing a lieutenant with a promising career in Naval intelligence and the first woman to try out for the Navy’s elite SEAL unit, Moore has finally found a role that showcases her talent for pushing herself to her physical, if not artistic, limits. She races over obstacle courses, womanhandles heavy oil drums, crawls through dirt and sludge and grunts her way through endless one-arm pushups and reverse sit-ups. Given that more than half the male SEAL recruits fail the grueling training, neither the top military brass who have grudgingly allowed her the opportunity to go through this torture nor the wily female senator (Bancroft, at her Machiavellian best) who champions her really expects Moore’s character to succeed. But Moore is no quitter.

Quite the opposite. Turns out this gal is a real glutton for punishment, and we’re not just talking about shaving her own head bald as a turnip. The physical brutality in this film is shocking. Moviegoers may be used to seeing Harrison Ford or Clint Eastwood get socked in the jaw during dustups with bad guys, but it seems altogether something else when Moore is punched square in the kisser or has her head smashed into a wooden pole. Are we sexist to flinch? Maybe, but a large part of the repugnance one feels at a particularly injurious scene is at how gratuitous the bashing seems. If this roughing-up stuff is a routine part of SEAL training—the movie was made without official help from the Navy—-Jane isn’t likely to serve as a possible recruiting film.

Unfortunately it doesn’t serve as much of a drama either. Directed with more vigor than subtlety by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, White Squall), Jane is short on plot beyond the obvious will-she-or-won’t-she-survive-SEAL-school and long on Flashdance-like sequences of a sweaty Moore, dressed in short shorts and a skimpy top, making like Jack Palance at the Oscars. (Roseanne fans take note: The obscene retort that Moore, bruised and bloody, uses on a sadistic superior in one of Jane’s pivotal scenes is the same comeback line that the comedienne has used on hecklers during her stand-up act for years.) (R)

You May Like