Southern Comfort

January 22nd, 1982


Southern Comfort

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A squad of National Guards on an isolated weekend exercise in the Louisiana swamp must fight for their lives when they anger local Cajuns by stealing their canoes...

Release Year: 1981

Rating: 7.1/10 (6,581 voted)

Director: Walter Hill

Stars: Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward

A squad of National Guards on an isolated weekend exercise in the Louisiana swamp must fight for their lives when they anger local Cajuns by stealing their canoes. Without live ammunition and in a strange country, their experience begins to mirror the Vietnam experience.

Writers: Michael Kane, Walter Hill

Keith Carradine - Spencer
Powers Boothe - Hardin
Fred Ward - Reece
Franklyn Seales - Simms
T.K. Carter - Cribbs
Lewis Smith - Stuckey
Les Lannom - Casper
Peter Coyote - Poole
Alan Autry - Bowden (as Carlos Brown)
Brion James - Trapper
Sonny Landham - Hunter
Allan Graf - Hunter
Ned Dowd - Hunter
Rob Ryder - Hunter
Greg Guirard - Cajun Couple

Taglines: It will show you as much about SURVIVAL as 'Deliverance' as much about HUMAN COURAGE as 'Midnight Express' as much about ARMED CONFLICT as 'Apocalypse Now'

Release Date: 22 January 1982

Filming Locations: Caddo Lake, Texas, USA

Opening Weekend: $116,943 (USA) (27 September 1981) (17 Screens)

Gross: $5,000,000 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

This movie's storyline is similar to the director Walter Hill's previous film at the time, The Warriors. In both movies, characters have a journey to find their way home encountering various dangerous obstacles, a hostile environment and aversive enemies along the way.

Revealing mistakes: During the dog attack, the protective pads on the men's arms are clearly visible.

Spencer: And what'd you paint the cross on your chest for?
Cpl. 'Coach' Bowden: That's part of the joke.
Spencer: What joke?
Cpl. 'Coach' Bowden: It's a corporal joke, private.
Sgt. Casper: Oh what the hell Bowden, you dumb son of a bitch, you just blew up all the supplies we captured, all the guns, the ammo, the food...

User Review

Part war movie, part thriller, part black comedy-Southern Comfort is one of Walter Hill's best films.

Rating: 9/10

Southern Comfort captures soldiers in the American army better than any film I've ever seen. I'm not saying the guys that stormed the beach at Normandy or took Pork Chop Hill, but something happened between World War 2 and now that kind of let the air out of American soldiers' sails. I went to Iraq in the army in 1991, and I heard the collective sigh echo through the ranks when we were informed that we were going to war in place of the expected gung-ho cheer. Of course, if you've read Norman Mailer's "the Naked and the Dead", you'd realize that apathy in the American military may have been around for awhile. After all, most people have a survival instinct that takes over in extreme situations that seems pretty self-centered. So start with that instinct and go to war with a bunch of people you're not only unrelated to, but don't even much care for. In the army a lot of beliefs, colors, attitudes etc. collide. That cohesive unit hefting a giant flag and marching up a hill as bombs burst around them looks good in the history books, but in reality it's a little different. Southern Comfort knows that fact well.

The plot centers around a squad of Louisiana national guardsmen who go on a weekend training exercise and become real weekend warriors with ammo-less rifles battling a crafty (even spooky) superior enemy of backwoods Cajuns. They start off with a simple mission of navigational training. Get from point A to B using a compass and a map. Point B is important to the squad, because Keith Carradine's character private Boothe has some hookers waiting at a party for them near point B. This is how these army guardsmen operate and it's pretty realistic.

Somewhere between A and B the route has been flooded and only a couple of canoes tied to a dock offer the soldiers any hope of showing up to their real jobs on Monday. They could walk around, but that would just suck. In the army you have missions. You also have things that arise that suck, and you try to find ways around them. While paddling across the flooded river, Stuckey (the smart ass of the bunch) fires a volley of blanks from his intimidating looking and sounding M60 at some Cajuns on the opposite bank. The Cajuns hit the deck and then blow one of the soldier's brains out. It's as good a "brain blowing out scene" as any I've ever seen, graphic and shocking. The rag tag team of guardsmen flee in panic to the opposite shore and woods. Luckily, Fred Ward brought along some real ammo, enough that each guy gets two whole bullets. The rest is funny, scary and exciting. The acting is great, especially Les Lannom as the dumb sergeant who really means well and Franklyn Seals as the guy who just wants the nightmare to end. The cinematography is great, with many beautiful shots of trees rising out of the bayou and the shadows they make on the water. Ry Cooder's soundtrack is eerie when it needs to be and just plain cool. It's one of his best.

The best part is the script itself. This film is supposedly an allegory to Vietnam, but that is almost immaterial. The writers (Hill included) have fashioned a script with fresh action, great suspense and realistic characterization and dialog. The writers understand that there will be the platoon sergeant that tries to care and follow the mission parameters to the letter, but who will cave if that gets too damned inconvenient. There's the E-5 buck sergeant who ends up in charge and knows he's stupid, even more so than some of the men below him. He also believes strongly that he's the only one who should make decisions because, as he says "I've got the stripes!" There's the private, who may rank at the bottom on the military chain of command, but rises to the leadership position because he actually makes the best leader. The one hardcore corporal who doubles as a football coach in his civilian life and would appear at first glance to be the guy you want next to you when the bullets start whizzing by ends up going plumb loco and being led around on a leash by the others. Thats how things really happen in a war. Everything gets unpredictable and somewhat crazy. Out of the realistic reactions the soldiers display to the war-like situation they get into, Hill finds comedy, drama and thrills. This film should entertain you on every level and I highly recommend it.


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