Having showed quite a bit of promise with "Better Luck Tomorrow", it's a bit difficult to figure out why director Justin Lin has moved on to directing forgettable material like another "Fast and the Furious" sequel, as well as "Annapolis". As for "Annapolis", a few supporting performances keep it from being a total loss. Otherwise, it's a dismaying follow-up for Lin, who doesn't seem interested in trying to liven up material that has been done before countless times.
The story, which is presented with an oddly fascinating old-school feel, focuses on Jake Huard, a kid from the other side of the tracks who works in a shipyard, boxing at night to earn money. His dream is to enter the very highly regarded Annapolis Naval Academy, an institution that accepts only a rare few. Jake manages to be accepted at the last minute, although he's told that he'll be behind the other students.
Jake doesn't take long to screw up, hitting on a girl named Ali (Jordana Brewster) who he thinks is a hooker and who later turns out to be his superior. It's no surprise that the two will eventually become romantic, despite the fact that it seems highly unlikely, given that she's his superior. His first days of training don't exactly go much easier or better, as he becomes the focus of Cole (Tyrese Gibson), his brutal drill instructor who thinks that Huard doesn't have what it takes.
While the movie appears to be headed in the direction of a military movie (the film was not given the support of the Navy), it takes a turn and suddenly becomes a boxing flick, as Huard decides to train for a military fight called the Brigade, where he'll be going up against Cole. There's nothing the least bit original about this movie, which remains quite predictable and cliched right down to the dialogue. If you've seen a boxing movie or military movie, you've seen every bit of this movie already, likely done better. As for the military aspect, I can only guess that much of it was taken out, as there's what appears to be a fairly major scene in the trailer on a battleship that's nowhere to be found in the movie.
It wouldn't be quite as bad if the characters were more developed, the acting better or Lin been able to bring some intensity to a movie that's surprisingly low-key. I've liked James Franco is other pictures, but he seems bland and uninterested here. Gibson and Brewster fare better, but neither creates much of a memorable character. Better is Vicellous Shannon, as an overweight recruit who, despite struggling, keeps pushing forward in an attempt to make it through the obstacle course and to keep up with his fellow recruits.
"Annapolis" isn't without a few moments that manage to work and a handful of good performances, but Franco's performance doesn't carry the movie and the script needed serious work: it doesn't develop characters much and seems 100% predictable and cliched - there are definitely no surprises to be found here.
VIDEO: "Annapolis" is presented by Touchstone in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the presentation is, aside from a few minor concerns, mostly superb. Sharpness and detail were excellent throughout the picture as the film looked consistently crisp and well-defined.
The only issue that I did notice was the presence of some light edge enhancement in a few scenes. Otherwise, the film looked crisp and clean, with no print flaws, pixelation or other faults. Colors looked rather subdued, but appeared accurately presented.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack did not exactly give the speakers much of a workout, although that's to be expected, as the movie doesn't offer all that much action. We do get a few sound effects and some ambience during the boxing scenes and elsewhere, but it's nothing that noticable. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, clear effects and dialogue.
EXTRAS: Director's commentary, 11 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from the writer, director and editor, "making of" and a featurette on the boxing sequences.
Final Thoughts: "Annapolis" offers a few decent supporting efforts, but the picture lacks the required intensity and operates entirely on cliches. The DVD offers very good video quality, fine audio and a nice selection of supplements. Fans may want to seek out the DVD, but I'd recommend others to skip it.