John Travolta is Paul Brenner, a wisecracking jerk of a CID investigator, in The General's Daughter, a film that fails to meet expectations. This movie is a prime example of a film that has been destroyed by its own marketing campaign, because the previews were exceptionally well done. Unfortunately, there are some major flaws that keep it from becoming one of 1999's top thrillers.
First off, the theme of the film fluctuates several times. Near the beginning, Brenner is attacked in his home and what ensues is something that makes the film look like it is going to be a straight out action flick. That would have been good. Then, the girl is found dead, strapped to the ground as naked as the day she was born, now turning to a murder mystery. And then Brenner begins to learn things that does not make it as much of a murder mystery as a conspiracy theory cover-up, but the only thing resembling a military cover-up is the fact that the murder took place on the base. There is no extenuating facts about the murder, such as that she might have discovered something she shouldn't have discovered.
The plot isn't bad but it jumps around so much that it is hard to follow. Brenner stamps one guy involved right away, and you begin to realize that this film isn't about who did it as much as why he did it. Unfortunately, for all the twists and turns to really have any impact on the audience, the reasoning has to be bigger, and the ending has to be more surprising. The killer's identity isn't all that obvious, but not that surprising. The General's involvement isn't that surprising either because the theatrical trailer makes it quite obvious. Furthermore, for the ending to truly be magnificent, it had to be a flat out twist, by having the conclusion be a total surprise while at the same time sneaking in hints throughout the duration of the film. And, unfortunately, the final, suspenseful scene is anything but suspenseful.
There isn't much to be said for the acting, but the writing is the real problem. John Travolta plays the typical good guy who has high morals but doesn't mind killing, and who always has some kind of punch line to throw, even in the most serious of situations. They (Travolta and Stowe, who is even more unimpressive) seem to say, "Yeah, that's right!" a lot, or at least something close to that. The only worthwhile performance in the film is James Cromwell's (the General), but that isn't enough to save it.
The General's Daughter has good direction and a decent storyline, but lacks the foundation of a real thriller.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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