For Queen and Country (June 29/04)
Aside from the bizarre sight of Denzel Washington sporting a cockney British accent, there's not much worth recommending about For Queen and Country. The film aimlessly tells the story of a soldier's reception after coming home, and while there are a few interesting sequences, the film is - on the whole - far more introspective than the material warrants.
After fighting for the British army for nine years, Reuben James (Washington) returns to his home town - presumably anticipating a hero's welcome. What he discovers, though, is a community rife with problems stemming from rampant crime. Though an old army buddy tries to give him a job as a hired goon, Reuben is determined to make a fresh start of things. But after learning he's no longer a British citizen - he was born St. Lucia - Reuben is forced to accept his old friend's offer.
For the most part, For Queen and Country is a slow-paced character study - something that kind of works, primarily because of Washington's fantastic performance. Though it does take a while to get used to his accent - which seems fairly accurate, by the way - Washington turns Reuben into a genuinely compelling figure. It's hard not to sympathize with the guy; he's spent almost a decade serving his country, only to be tossed aside upon the completion of his tour of duty. There's no doubt that had the film focused on that aspect of the story, For Queen and Country would've been a lot more effective.
But screenwriters Trix Worrell and Martin Stellman (the latter of whom also directed) spend an equal amount of time on a variety of subplots, including a Reuben's short-lived romance with a local and a pivotal drug deal towards the end. Reuben's relationship does hold some promise, until it's quickly dropped in favor of the character's decent into the world of crime. Admittedly, once For Queen and Country concludes and we're able to see the big picture, the film's trajectory begins to make a bit more sense - but even that's marred by a last-minute twist that's completely inexplicable (putting it mildly).
Still, Washington's ample charisma goes a long way towards keeping things semi-interesting. He delivers an expectedly superb performance that would've been much better served in a less plot-heavy film (ie a Mike Leigh movie).