Heartbreak Ridge (1986)
Updated: Sep 13
Heartbreak Ridge was released on December 5, 1986, through Warner Bros and Malpaso Productions . Clint Eastwood not only starred in the film, he served as the film’s producer and director. Eastwood's 13th feature film as a director is probably the last major example of the classic war movie formula— a unit of screw-ups gets a tough new sergeant whom the troops hate until he earns their respect and eventually leads them successfully in combat.
Granted, the film never reaches the heights of In The Line of Fire, Unforgiven or Gran Torino, but it does hit the mark in providing solid entertainment, and it has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years.
There are a few reasons why I keep going back to Heartbreak Ridge.
First, let’s talk about the perfect casting of Clint Eastwood as the titular character Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway. If there ever was an actor who has been sculpting and perfecting his sharp tongue, mean, scowl faced, hard as nails screen persona, it’s Clint Eastwood. This time out Eastwood took his tough guy persona and pushed off the charts. Without Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge would be nothing more than another B-movie.
Second, Eastwood's films left a lasting impression with audiences because they contained some the best catch phrases in movie history;
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” Dirty Harry.
“Go ahead — make my day.” Sudden Impact.
"Tell me, isn`t the sheriff supposed to be courageous, loyal, and above all, honest? I think you people need a new sheriff. “For a Few Dollars More
In my opinion Heartbreak Ridge may just be one of the most quotable movies in Eastwood's arsenal. Making this one of the entertaining films in Eastwood's career.
Here are but a few examples;
Gunnery Seargant Thomas Highway: “The United States Marines is lookin' for a few good men - and you ain't it.”
Sergeant Webster: "Major Powers and I are building an e-lite company of fighting men." Highway: "The only thing you could build, Webster... is a good case of hemorrhoids.”
Highway: “Be advised, I'm mean nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I could a round through a flea’s ass at 300 yards. So why don't you hump somebody else's leg mutt-face before I push yours in.”
Highway: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Third, Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway was Eastwood’s last hurrah as a bad-ass action hero. In subsequent films Eastwood played flawed heroic characters, focusing with the consequences and/or our relationship to violence. Although there is nothing wrong with Eastwood's new direction , I do from time to time miss those old school rough and tough action heroes.
In my opinion Heartbreak Ridge is one of the last great feature films that showcased an old school action hero fighting the bureaucrats, kicking butt, emerging triumphant.
The film may be predictable and formulaic, but Heartbreak Ridge is just a whole lot of fun with Eastwood at the top of his game.