Film Review – The Beast of War (1988)

Title – The Beast of War/The Beast (1988) 

Director – Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld)

Cast – Jason Patric, George Dzundza, Steven Bauer, Stephen Baldwin, Erick Avari

Plot – Separated from their unit, a Soviet tank crew lead by their manic officer Daskal (Dzundza) find themselves being hunted down by a group of vengeful Afghani rebels after they destroyed their village in a bloodthirsty attack.  

“Yeah, I’ll kaboom tank”

This review comes courtesy of some contact I had directly via the blog. For some context the original message is below! Keep the suggestions coming! 

Original Reader Letter – 

Movie suggestion for you to review.

Hi Guys, a while back I stumbled across a movie I had never heard of. I was completely blown away, and ever since I’ve been desperately trying to convince everyone across movie fandom to give it a shot and hopefully drag it out of complete obscurity.

The movies called ‘The Beast of War’ aka ‘The Beast’ from 1988, Directed by Kevin Reynolds staring George Dzundza – Jason Patric and Steven Bauer, it was only released in two screens across the whole of the U.S. By Columbia Pictures, and I kid you not when I say this is the best Hollywood film you’ve never heard of. Quentin Tarantino’s old writing partner Roger Avery has it down as the best movie of 1988 on Letterboxd, and he also has it down as one of his 20 desert island films with ‘Apocalypse now’ being the only other war film.

The film has a rating of 7.3 on IMDB, 3.5 on Letterboxd, but not a single critics review on RottenTomatoes, but it does have an audience score of 85%. I’m starting to get more and more podcasts to check it out and review it while Letterboxd reviews seem to be on the increase now. I think it would be great if companies like Criterion or Shout factory etc. could get their hands on it and give it the exposure it clearly needs.

Please seek this film out, it’s available on DVD and streaming, so it won’t be difficult to track down and if you do see it let me know if you agree with me that this might be one of the 10 best American movies of the 1980s.

One way or another we need to find a way to raise this movies profile and prevent it from continual obscurity once and for all.

Review by Eddie on 13/10/2021

There aren’t too many films that completely slip through the cracks when it comes to my knowledge thanks to year’s of movie consumption (and some early life work at video rental stores, remember those?) but Kevin Reynolds little spoken about 1988 film The Beast of War (also commonly known as The Beast) is a film that I can honestly say I had never heard of until recently but thanks to a recommendation, I made the time to check this nightmarish war film out and I am very glad that I did. 

Victim of a studio dumping it into an initial release with little to no fanfare or backing, Beast is a film that was worth more attention as Reynolds and his screenwriter William Mastrosimone (adapting his own play) create a boiling pot of tension and drama as they follow Russian tank officer Daskal and his crew across the sand swept surrounds of Afghanistan as they are pursed by a justice seeking group of Afghani locals in a secluded valley after they wreck havoc on their small village. 

Getting stuck straight into the action, we as viewers are thrust into the sweat covered lives of the unstable Daskal and his skeleton crew that includes Jason Patric’s Konstantin Koverchenko, Stephen Baldwin’s wide-eyed Anthony Golikov and Don Harvey’s unbalanced Kaminski, as they traverse the foreign landscape of the country they have invaded while Steven Bauer’s village chief Khan Taj and his men pursue them deeper and deeper into a hellish valley that seems likely to lead to a conflict where only one side will come away victorious. 

There’s barely a moment where Reynolds film lets up, Beast moves along at a rapid pace, much like its barely functioning tank that is both a savior and a curse to the men inside, and when it comes to films set in the Afghanistan region there’s a real case to suggest that this 1988 effort is one of the best set in the time and period where the Soviet’s went toe to toe with the local militia in the country. 

Something else that is evidently apparent in the film is the string of quality performances. 

Leading from the front is the almost never better George Dzundza who goes all out as Daskal who is looking back to past glories as he dictates his men’s movements into a seemingly losing battle and Patric, who brings great intensity to his role as the voice of reason Konstantin, a man who has been put into a hopeless position where he is torn between self preservation and doing what’s right for the country his committed to serve. 

Overall this is a white knuckle affair, one with brilliantly staged battles, great delivery and one of composer Mark Isham’s most effective scores and while its unlikely you’ve heard of this war film, it’s one you should find and check out as one of the 80’s most undervalued efforts. 

Final Say – 

One of the hidden gems of the war film genre and one of the most effective tank based sub-genre efforts, The Beast of War is a thrilling piece of filmmaking that deserves to find an audience it was cruelly denied upon release.  

4 RPG’s out of 5 

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