Gunner Palace

Palm Pictures, $24.99.

ABOUT 1,535 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq at the time of this documentary's March 11 release in theaters. By the time the DVD came out (June 28), the number was 1,799. Today, it's risen to at least 1,838. Does anyone outside the White House seriously expect that trend to change?

And yet, besides bereaved war mother Cindy Sheehan resolutely camping outside Dubya's compound in Crawford, Texas, last week, where is the outrage? Gunner fizzled in theaters, and the DVD hasn't gotten much publicity, a sign that the public—never mind the troops—is suffering from Iraq fatigue. When director Michael Tucker came to town to discuss the film last spring, he was obviously both fond of the soldiers he lived with in Uday Hussein's old palace and skeptical of the war at large. "People think it's like another war, and it's not," he told SW. "It's not your grandfather's war. It's probably the most screwed-up war we've ever been in."

Since Tucker's narration is a part of the slice-of-life (and death) deployment of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment in Baghdad in 2003–04, no director commentary has been added to the film. Minimal extras basically consist of more homespun music and rap performances from the soldiers, plus some deleted scenes. They reinforce the quotidian sense of kids coping with stress by blowing off steam and playing computer games when they're not on patrol. Outside the palace, of course, they worry that those garbage-strewn plastic bags can contain IEDs. ("This whole country is garbage!" one soldier frets.)

One new scene catches us up with former Pvt. Stuart Wilf, Gunner's designated clown, now back home in Colorado—just another slacker in a frayed baseball cap and chin stubble. About his twentysomething fellow dudes, he explains, "They never say, 'Thank you.' They just know war from the movies. It definitely didn't feel like those movies." I can only suspect that Tucker lacked the resources for further follow-up, but there's plenty more material where that came from. Soon there may also be disgruntled veterans camped outside Crawford—not that Bush would talk to them, either.

AUG. 16 BRINGS The Ballad of Jack & Rose to DVD, along with a reissue of My Left Foot, also with Daniel Day-Lewis (in his Oscar-winning role). Sin City debuts with basically no extras, a disappointment. Among art films, look for Platform from Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-Ke, whose acclaimed The World opens here Sept. 9. Among TV fare, there's season six of The Simpsons and the short-lived series Undeclared.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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