“With all due respect, sir, my balls are starting to swell.”
Clint Eastwood He has earned his tough guy image with countless titles, although perhaps his most memorable roles in that direction are the nameless man from the Dollar Trilogy and Harry Callahan. That list could be joined by an infinity of characters, but high up on that list should be Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway.
‘The iron sergeant’ is probably one of Eastwood’s titles with a more commercial vocation, something curious in the case of a war film that recovers today The 1 from 22:10. However, what shines here above all else is the arsenal of one-liners from the script signed by James Carabatsos, most of them concentrated during the first hour of footage of a film with a structure similar to ‘The Metallic Jacket’, the acclaimed Stanley Kubrick film that would hit theaters a year after the one in question.
Without mincing words
I’m Gunnery Sergeant Highway. I drank more beer, pissed more blood, poured more powder, and smashed more eggs than all of you put together, assholes.
Not that the Carabatsos libretto is a big deal, but for the first few minutes of the film it is the ideal base to introduce the characters in general and the particular methods of the sergeant played by Eastwood. I don’t blame those who remember ‘The Iron Sergeant’ for the waste of mythical phrases that come from the mouth of the legendary actor, since it is the ideal entrance door to conquer the spectator and who wants to continue watching the film.
This gives the film a fairly marked comic tone in this initial phase of the footage, something that becomes more nuanced as the minutes go by, first to delve more deeply into the character of Eastwood, something that he knows how to use very well to give it a touch much more humane than the sadistic instructor incarnate R. Lee Ermey in Kubrick’s movie.
I am here to communicate that life as you have known it is over. You better go to town tonight and laugh and do the asshole, or rub your pichitas against your girlfriends, or stick it in any hole, but whatever it is, do it because tomorrow at six in the morning, your asses will be mine.
In the purely plot, there is surely the biggest difference between the two proposals, since Highway is still a kind of revision of other previous characters in Eastwood’s filmography, but maximizing its most scathing side. That also makes the film very child of its time, because some of its phrases would be unthinkable in any major studio production that is currently released.
However, underneath that sly facade is a movie that shows a somewhat disenchanted portrait of the US Army, moving away at all times from what one might expect a priori. And it is that Eastwood’s republican ideology is well known, but that has never been an obstacle to face each project as its own story, which curiously works better when the war part is more in the background.
Like barbed wire and Napalm piss. And I can pierce a flea’s ass with one shot 200 meters, so go pound it out there, dog face, before it breaks your nose.
There also happens something similar to the Kubrick film, much more stimulating in the training part than when everything goes to the front line. That does not mean that ‘The Iron Sergeant’ collapses in its final stretch, since Eastwood knows how to raise interest at certain times, although it is fair to recognize that here he shines more in his role as an actor than as a director.
‘The iron sergeant’ it had a great reception from the public, which made them raise more than 120 million dollars when their budget had been just 15 million. Despite this, Eastwood took it easy and did not release a movie again until 1988, the year in which he went behind the cameras with ‘Bird’ and in front of them to say goodbye to Harry Callahan in ‘The Blacklist’.