Erase and Forget

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Andrea Luka Zimmerman

Starring

Bo Gritz

Anticipation.

The real-life story of a gun-loving American nutbag.

Enjoyment.

An abstract portrait of a true outsider. Shocking and compelling, even if a little meandering at times.

In Retrospect.

Some may see this as a definitive film of America under Trump.

Rambo’s real-life American counterpart is the subject of this fractured, fascinating documentary portrait.

This is the patchwork life story of Bo Gritz, the heavily decorated US Special Forces officer who, it’s suggested, was one of the models for jacked American kill-bot, John Rambo. Director Andrea Luka Zimmerman hung out with Gritz over a number of years, and this erratic, lightly abstract portrait offers a chilling encapsulation of a man who certainly has some stories to tell (and is more than happy to spew forth for the camera). An introductory shot sees our subject demonstrating military combat tactics in the desert on an invisible foe, though you instantly get the sense that he really can see that giant bowie knife in his hand.

Gritz initially rose up the ranks while in Vietnam where he joined an elite unit serving directly under American army general, William Westmorland. Quickly racking up the kills, he developed an air of macho entitlement and started not only to believe, but to actively promote, an image of the omnipotent action man. Whether the term “heroic” applies is questionable, as Gritz is open about the fact that he used is elevated, quasi-celebrity status as a way to bully his compatriots into submission.

Later in life, he still retains a certain swagger and self-importance, even though his days in the limelight have long passed – like a lank-haired pub local who won’t shut up about how he was once a roadie for Black Sabbath. He wanders around a gun show festooned in military awards, yet he’s just another face in the crowd, relegated to promoting firearms to minors in the corner of a giant hangar. He sleeps with a .45 under his pillow, plus an entire arsenal of automatic weapons at his bedside. He gloats about how many people he has killed, but Zimmerman refuses to paint him as a monster, more as a man who chosen to sprint (fully armed) down the winding  path that life has offered him.

The film explores the links between the American military industrial complex and contemporary right wing politics, and how that image has evolved in mass media. We watch as Gritz drifts from everyman chancer, through the corridors of power and into paranoid separatism via various white nationalist-affiliations.

There are comic interludes which draw on various clips from films such as the Rambo saga and its many imitators (including one, Rescue Force, in which Gritz stars as a stocky take on Richard Crenna’s iconic Colonel Trautman), and the tone is always playful rather than mocking. It’s a tragic film about a man who has been chewed up and spat out by the system, but it’s also about a figure who is unable to feel self-pity for fear that it might corrupt his comically virile exterior. The title refers to Gritz’ coping tactic when it comes to dealing with high trauma.

Published 2 Mar 2018

Tags: Documentary

Anticipation.

The real-life story of a gun-loving American nutbag.

Enjoyment.

An abstract portrait of a true outsider. Shocking and compelling, even if a little meandering at times.

In Retrospect.

Some may see this as a definitive film of America under Trump.

Read More

A brief history of women in World War Two movies

By Lena Hanafy

These films show the different ways women joined the war effort, often away from the home front.

10 films Donald Trump should screen in the White House

By Dan Einav

Following a recent Finding Dory screening, we’ve got some more viewing suggestions for the President.

A War

By Trevor Johnston

A Hijacking director Tobias Lindholm and star Pilou Asbæk reteam for this thought-provoking military drama.

review

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design