Get local news delivered straight to your phone

We can't make City Paper without you

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Of all the lefties champing at the bit to give those rabble-rousing geezers of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth a swift kick in the ass, Paul Alexander has to be among the most impatient. Had the Swift vets’ recent ad campaign not turned the media spotlight on each and every minute detail surrounding John Kerry’s service in Vietnam, Alexander’s directorial debut, Brothers in Arms, might have actually tapped an untouched nerve in voters. Filmed prior to the publication of John E. O’Neill and Jerome P. Corsi’s similarly structured, if ideologically opposite, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, the 68-minute documentary explores the lives of and relationships among the six-man crew of the now-infamous Patrol Craft Fast 94 before, during, and after their experiences in the Mekong Delta. Interviews with the surviving crew members, including Kerry, reveal somber, familiar stories of both the hardships of fighting a war they didn’t understand and the alienation, depression, and alcoholism that set in upon their return home. Archival footage of Kerry’s testimony before a Senate committee in 1971 as an anti-war activist serves to remind viewers that the wooden candidate they see on television today was once an impressively compelling public speaker—but neither he nor his comrades manage to voice an opinion likely to change any minds. Through no real fault of its own—blame it on bad timing—Brothers will undoubtedly disappoint anyone looking for a refutation of the current accusations about the validity of Kerry’s war medals: Not having been raised seriously at the time Alexander was setting up for those 60 Minutes–style black-backdropped interviews, the question is addressed with no particular urgency. (The film does mention PCF-94 machine-gunner Tommy Belodeau’s conflicting account regarding the circumstances under which his commander won the Silver Star, but then quickly moves on.) Among the glut of politically charged, heavily biased documentaries flooding theaters this election year, Brothers just doesn’t belong. Earnest and a bit dull, it comes across as an iconic but hardly crucial American tale: how a bunch of good ol’ boys discovered their manhood while patrolling foreign shores.—Matthew Borlik