Written and directed by Oden Few Roberts A Fighting Season stars Clayne Crawford (Lethal Weapon, Rectify) and Lew Temple (The Walking Dead, Wicked City) as Army recruiters post 9/11. The film is a harsh indictment on the system of an all volunteer military and surviving an unending war on terrorism and truth.
Roberts’ take on the system of recruitment after the hysteria of the 9/11 attacks, which saw all time high numbers of volunteers for all branches of the service, is one that is tinged with cynicism and includes a world weary warrior. Sgt. Mason (Crawford) is classified as a war hero. Wounded in action, the soldier has injuries that are much deeper than anyone knows. He is struggling to survive life outside the war zone.
The man tagged to work in a local recruiting office by Sgt. First Class Harris is suffering, apparently, from PTSD, flashbacks of murdering an enemy in the field and some personal image problems. He dislikes the term hero and Harris, a strutting bible quoting wannabe, desperately tries to keep his numbers up while bullying everyone within his reach.
A Fighting Season looks harshly at the whole system of Army recruitment and paints a pretty unflattering picture of the men who prey on America’s youth to fill their numbers. The pencil pushers in the office all participate in drunken pistol practice and respond to Harris’ bullying tactics and delusions of grandeur.
Crawford’s character, although flawed, is the most honorable man in this mix of soldiers whose only casualties are the naïve youth they target. While the rest focus on fear of the enemy and ignorance, Mason takes a different road. He is ultimately put in charge but the promotion is an empty one and his victory is, in the end, hollow.
A Fighting Season is less about the youngsters that the Army woo in an effort to fill boots on the ground and more about the people actually in military service who have served their country. Harris is a desk jockey who dreams of leaving “no man behind” while Mason has scars from his actual combat experience.
Harris is a straw soldier who has no real substance, a perfect example of the modern volunteer career military member. At one point in the movie, he bemoans the possible loss of his pension, medical benefits and GI Bill. Mason, who has taken and lost blood for his country never mentions any of these “vital” components of the “new” Army.
Roberts’ message shows that whatever the reason the Army promotes bonding as a family, not too dissimilar to the gang culture of picking one’s brothers and sisters. The Army also utilizes whatever technique works, whether it be bullying, sexual intimidation or lying to achieve their recruitment numbers.
There are things in the film that jar. As a veteran, the sloppiness of the recruiters’ uniforms was annoying. (As was the propensity of every character in BDUs to call their sergeant “sir.” This simply does not happen, NCO’s are addressed by their rank. “I work for a living” being the angry response from any sergeant called “sir.”)
These, and other, gaffes are forgivable however. Roberts shows, overall, how the Army struggled to fill positions after the initial furor of America’s first attack on the home front in 2001. It shows the anger, the uncertainty and the confusion faced by soldiers and the prospective entrants they court daily.
A Fighting Season is a 4 star film. It is available on VOD and is worth watching just for Crawford and Temple. The message is clear and while it may leave the viewer with a slightly sour taste after viewing, the film does attempt to show the cynical mechanizations behind those recruiting posters.