In this latest movie about the war in Iraq, writer-director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry) tells the story of young war hero Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe), who returns to his small Texas hometown, his rambunctious men in tow, more than eager to turn in his gear for good. King settles back into the safe and slower lifestyle of drinkin' tequila and shootin' empty bottles off tree stumps at the ranch, and leaves the nightmarish world of killing far behind him – only to find that he's been "stop-lossed,” that is ordered to return to yet another tour overseas.
With flashbacks of a mission gone wrong and the deaths of several of his men hanging heavily on his conscience, King immediately balks and impetuously goes AWOL, enlisting the help of his best friend’s (and fellow soldier’s) fiancé to drive to D.C., to naively seek the help of a kindly senator who gave him a congratulatory pat on the bum at his homecoming ceremony. But met with a government unsympathetic to deserters and unrest growing amongst his now-deserted men, King is left with the unappetizing choice between leaving his entire life behind to hop the border, or returning to the wartime lunacy that he so desperately wished to escape.
Though potentially a compelling story with some genuinely disturbing war scenes, Stop-Loss focuses too much on a flat man-on-the-run tale, further muddled up with cheesy Texas accents, small-town (dare I say "hick"?) melodrama, and ridiculous dialogue ("Who wants to play 'Let's Start Shootin' People'?"). The premise of stop-lossed soldiers fighting the system is inadequately explored, while too much is squandered watching King reaching deep down within to tickle his inner war-time emo and running away, crying. I'll admit, this movie is great for watching Channing Tatum clench and unclench his massive facial muscles and tussle with Phillippe, but a ground-breaking or effective movie, it is not.