A Fighting Season (2017): Surviving With Clayne Crawford (Review)

A008_C005_1204U7Written 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.


Longmire Season 4 Episode 8: Hector Lives (Recap and Review)

Vic searching for clues in Walt's desk.

Episode eight of Longmire, Hector Lives, starts off with Henry continuing his transition to become the “new” Hector. Last week, Highway Robbery, deviated from the Gabriel rape case but now the show is back on track with one of the suspects turning up dead at the start of the episode.

As Henry shows up at the oil rig site, wearing sun-glasses and a company hard-hat, it looks quite suspicious when Will Balint turns up dead. The rape suspect is suffocated in three inches of mud after just being promoted. Walt, not knowing of Henry’s presence looks at the death with ideas of murder from within the oil drilling company.

Walt has to get permission from  neighboring Cumberland county’s sheriff to attend the crime scene. Sheriff Jim Wilkins (Tom Wopat) very reluctantly allows Longmire access and only agrees after deciding to send Deputy Eamon O’Neill (Josh Cooke) along.

Once they arrive, Katee Sackhoff’s Vic gets the “line of the episode award” with her response to  boss Walker Browning) while Walt questions the man about Balint’s job with the company:

Walker: “Will was a good worker. Hell, he was better than good. He was outstanding. That’s why I just promoted him to assistant driller.”

Walt:  “What was Will’s previous position?”

Walker: “Roughneck.”

Vic: “Are those the guys whose job it is to physically force young girls into having sexual intercourse?”

After deciding to look into Balint’s death further, Walt and Henry go to tell Gab that one of her rapists is dead.  Vic has to speak to Archer Loftus (Lew Temple) and she talks with Eamon about that female voice on the phone.  Loftus is missing and as O’Neill and Vic go through his foot locker they find a “lonely hearts” matchmaking card.

Henry and Walt stop at a graffitied station wagon, “Hector Lives” is painted in black on the side of the derelict vehicle. Henry explains the rationale behind the graffiti and tells Longmire that the car belonged to a “late” meth dealer, Jack Mule Deer who recently died of a heart attack.  Henry says, “Because out here, a death like that feels like justice, the kind that Hector used to bring.” He finishes, “Hector lives…as an idea and a hope.”

Walt implies that someone is taking up the mantle of Hector. Zach and Ferg make a list of all Gab’s family to follow up Longmire’s revenge theory. Sam Poteet’s name comes up. Vic goes to see Cyrano Caballero to find Archer. Walt and Zachary go to Jacob Nighthorse to get permission to see Poteet.

The casino owner refuses and learns from Longmire about Malachi’s (Graham Greene) loan sharking operation. Walt suspects that the new Hector has killed Balint and tells Ferg to check the autopsy results on the dead man. Ferg asks if there is anything in particular that Longmire wants him to look for and his boss replies, “Yeah, missing teeth,”

Hector’s old calling card.

Walt explains to his newest deputy who Hector was, after Zach asks about it. This clears up the “missing teeth” request since the original Hector used to knock teeth out of his target’s mouth. Walt explains that, in his mind, Hector was a sign that they system was broken.

As Vic gets caught going through Walt’s desk drawers looking for information about who keeps calling him, Zachary and Longmire go to see Sam Poteet.  While they talk to the plumber he hints that an army is ready to “take the field” to right some wrongs, including his daughter Gab’s rape.

Cady gets her first Res client and Vic probes Walt’s daughter for information about her boss. During their talk Cady realizes that Henry may have something to do with Balint’s muddy death. The Cumberland coroner calls the recently promoted roughneck’s demise an accident.

Walt learns that Will Balint was indeed missing a tooth.

Henry visits Gabriel and tells her to write to Hector for justice and that Hector is alive. Gab tells him that she cannot leave the house and Henry says he will deliver the note for her. The young woman writes the note and it is heartbreaking:

“Hector, I don’t know why I’m writing to you. But here’s what I know. There were two of them. One didn’t speak. The other told me to scream as loud as I wanted because no one cares enough to listen. He was right. Gab.”

Vic brings Loftus in, after she tackles him on their “date” and it turns out that he is terrified of someone at Newett Energy. Archer asks to be arrested for Balint’s murder and kept in jail in Absaroka, county not Cumberland. Loftus reveals that Balint wanted help and asked him who could help with an issue concerning Walker Browning, his supervisor.

Archer tells Walt that after referring Balint to human resources, the man was promoted out of turn and then  wound  up dead. Loftus also reveals to Walt that he believes the company set Balint  to be killed as a way of silencing him.

Henry watches as Walker Browning sends a load of girls and drunken roughnecks to the Res spot to party.  The two men talk briefly. Walt gets a copy of the autopsy report, courtesy of Eamon O’Neill and  learns that Balint was murdered.

Trot Simic, the man who “found” Balint’s body has been promoted to Balint’s position and Longmire wants him brought in for questioning.  Back at the Res party spot; where Gab was raped, the other rapist; Terry Malone, talks another young woman, Laila Bixby (Alicia Urizar) into leaving the main party. He tells her that there is  “a clearing where you can see the whole sky.” 

As Walt, Zachary and Vic close in on the party spot,  looking for Trot Simic, Malone reaches the clearing with Laila. As the sheriff and his two deputies arrest Trot, Terry Malone moves in on Laila attacking her.

Before he can complete his assault,  a masked man knocks him off the Bixby woman. Malone falls to the ground. He rises and the man, Henry, knocks him down and tells him that if he returns or harms another woman he will not just take teeth from Malone. The two men struggle and Malone breaks free.

As he turns to run, a shot rings out. Walt hears it and heads in the direction of the sound. Gab has shot her other rapist. She pauses to reload and Henry shouts at  her to run. As they flee, Gabriel drops the gun and Henry goes to get it. Walt shoots at the darkened figure.

Longmire is back on the rapist track again along with the murder mystery in Cumberland County. Clear lines are being drawn here, although Walt does not realize it just yet. As the season approaches its penultimate episode things continue to pick up pace and the sheriff  has several different cases going on at once.

This episode ends with the possibility that Henry has been shot and that Walt could just find out that his oldest friend is the new Hector.

Kudos go to Katee Sackhoff’s performance in this episode and Lou Diamond Phillips shares the honors.   This Netflix rescue effort of Longmire  has lost nothing in the transfer from weekly episodes to all 10 at once, the quality of the program is still there. Warner Horizon have not talked season five yet, but based on what season four brings to the table, the odds must be good.

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