You have to admire Demi Moore. Her judgment might not be the greatest (she's starred in some awfully mediocre films) and she may not be the most gifted actress of her generation, but she really throws herself into a role and gives it her all. I thought it was impressive that she learned to pole dance for "Striptease" and bared herself. But that's nothing compared to what she did a year later in order to make "G.I. Jane."
She went from appearing in the buff to getting buff. Really buff. One-armed push-ups buff. Hanging upside down sit-ups buff. I can now kick your ass, Mr. Willis buff. And she shaved off all that beautiful hair. Moore's effort and determination seem to match her character's, and that's one of the few things that rescues this otherwise ordinary film.
The main problem is that we've seen it all before, and so it's as predictable as can be. The tough senator with an agenda who wields political power like a bludgeon? Though Anne Bancroft plays her with dead-on accuracy, it's become such a stock character that you know this person is going to be both good cop and bad cop at some point. The tough-as-nails drill instructor with an apparently caring heart? He's here too as Master Chief Urgayle, played by Viggo Mortenson. Sure, he reads J.M. Coetzee and quotes D.H. Lawrence, but you've seen his type in every single military movie. Same with the generic-looking men in the outfit who train with Jordan O'Neill (Moore) and eventually bond with her, though at first they give her almost as much crap as the instructor. Then there's the training itself, which is as abusively clichéd as these khaki films get. And of course, there's a "Top Gun" moment when training is interrupted for a real mission that tests them all.
And there you have it. "G.I. Jane" in a nutshell. The most interesting twist is that this is set after the first Gulf War and involves a test case to determine if women should be integrated into the military. O'Neill, resentful that her significant other (Jason Beghe) got promoted because he had the chance to serve in combat, jumps at the chance to be the female crash test dummy, though they set her up to fail. After the senator makes a deal with the military brass to have one hand-picked woman train alongside men, the cigar chompers (yep, those stock characters are here too) think they've pulled a fast one when they fast-track O'Neill to train in an elite Navy SEAL program with a drop-out rate among men of 60 percent. She'll never make it through, they wink and nod.
But of course she does, and her success was never in any doubt. That's the unfortunate result when you pack a formulaic script and drive that Hummer down familiar roads. We can even see the twists at the end coming. Somehow, it's still entertaining, and I seriously think it's because of Moore. It's hard not to watch "G.I. Jane" with equal measures of fascination and admiration.
I don't know whether the issue is source materials or transfer, but the 1080p picture just doesn't have the detail of the better Blu-ray releases. There's a slight graininess and gauziness that makes you feel, at times, as if you've got a little film on the old eyeball. It could be lighting-related, because the sharpest scenes are interiors that are well-lit. "G.I. Jane" is presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The audio's much stronger, with the featured soundtrack uncompressed English PCM 5.1 and additional options in English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Surround. It's a robust audio with plenty of rear-speaker action and a booming bass. Subtitles are in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
BOO RAH! There are no extras.
Call this the Anti-Private Benjamin. O'Neill is as gung-ho HOO RAH! as the men, and it's truly impressive to watch Moore train in secret to develop muscles on her muscles. "G.I. Jane" is a cartoonish-sounding title, and the potential was here to create a cartoon hero of sorts. But to director Ridley Scott's credit, he fights the impulse to take the action figure route and focuses on O'Neill as regular Navy. It's a better movie than I expected, with decent performances. If only the script were a little more original, and the characters less familiar.