Bennett's War

Here's a very “inside baseball” story about why I'm not formally reviewing Bennett's War.

I saw this movie many months ago. Shortly after Christmas, if my memory is correct. It was being test screened and I had the chance to take part. I thought it might be an interesting experience to go through, one that would give me some first-hand insight into how that whole process works. So, one afternoon, I sat down and saw the film.

Bennett's War is the story of Marshall Bennett (Michael Roark), a soldier who is badly wounded by an IED. His back and leg are broken. Upon returning home, he discovers that his father Cal (Trace Adkins) is behind on the mortgage and might lose the family farm as a result. Marshall doesn't want this to happen. He therefore trains and competes as a motocross racer, hoping to earn enough money to prevent financial ruin. Of course, participating in this sport threatens to disable him permanently, should he injure his back again.

It didn't take long for me to grow bored and restless. Bennett's War has clunky, unimaginative dialogue and stiff performances. It's one of those movies where a bunch of different things are set up in the first ten minutes so that you immediately know how they're going to pay off at the end. Then you just sit there waiting for the film to go through the motions. I zoned out on several occasions.

In order to be part of the testing process, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. For that reason, I never told anyone that I saw the film, except for one person. Recently, I mentioned it to an editor at an outlet where I freelance after it came up in an email exchange.

Anyway, cut to two weeks ago. A PR rep emails me (twice) offering a screening link for review purposes. Here's where the dilemma came in. Movies sometimes change as a result of the testing process. Filmmakers get audience feedback and routinely adjust or tweak things. I doubt the release cut of Bennett's War changed very dramatically from the cut I saw; the story is far too structured to go in a specific direction to withstand any radical reconfiguration. Nevertheless, it might be slightly different. I don't ethically feel comfortable writing a review when I'm not certain I saw the final cut. Also, I'd never review a movie I'd zoned out on as badly as I did this one.

The only option was to accept the link, watch the final cut, and then write a review. I opted not to do this. Spending ninety-five minutes on something I pretty much already knew I wasn't going to like didn't seem to serve me or Bennett's War very well. Better to leave the formal reviews to critics coming into the film without any preconceived notions. I could not have approached it a second time with an open mind, and I pride myself on giving every movie a fair shake.

So that's the story. I saw a version of Bennett's War and didn't like it. The version being released might be different, better, or exactly the same. Check Rotten Tomatoes for proper reviews from critics who have seen the release cut.

Bennett's War is rated PG-13 for some language and brief violence. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.