dir. John Woo
Opens Fri June 14 at various theaters.

Windtalkers is big and square and cornball and everything you would expect from a big-name Hollywood action director dabbling in the arena of WWII. Unfortunately, it is also a colossal piece of shit, which makes the words "directed by John Woo" a sad sight to see.

The story (which is "inspired by actual events"): During the war with the Japanese, the U.S. developed a special code around the Navajo language--a code that the Japanese found unbreakable. The code senders were actual Navajo men (nicknamed "Windtalkers") plucked from the reservations, and they were assigned military escorts--soldiers whose job it was to protect the code at all costs, even if it meant killing the Windtalkers before the Japanese could get their hands on them.

In Windtalkers, Nicolas Cage plays Sergeant Joe Enders, assigned to keep Private Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), a Windtalker, out of harm's way. This involves killing many, many Japanese soldiers, along with single-handedly causing more explosions than were seen in the entire Pacific Theater during the war. Such pyrotechnics are John Woo's specialty, and they are suitably impressive. The only problem is, they don't belong in this movie.

As a director, Woo has always had the technical skills to take your breath away. Gunfights, fistfights, blowing shit up--he is unmatched, especially when he was still working in Hong Kong (where labor safety laws are ridiculously lax). Here in America, however, working in English, his films have suffered. Face/Off was fun, of course, and Mission: Impossible 2 had its moments (few and far between), but all of Woo's New World work has been saddled with clunky, borderline-inept hokeyness. Simply put, when Woo isn't destroying something, his American work is riddled with cheese--cheese that is much easier to ignore in his Hong Kong work.

Windtalkers is so cheesy, so clunky and hokey, that it nearly offends. The violence is top-notch, but during quiet moments and simple transitions, the film is almost laughably bad. The story of the WWII Windtalkers is fascinating, maybe even important. Unfortunately, here it has been squandered.