Following the Full Metal Jacket formula, 9th Company is divided into two acts: in the first, the Soviet protagonists are transformed from civilian boys to military men by basic training; in the second act, the protagonists are physically and psychologically tested on the battlefield. Following Kubrick's formula, the protagonists are forged by their experiences in basic training, and then blunted or broken by the horrors of war. However, where actor/director Fyodor Bondarchuk departs from Full Metal Jacket is in the body count among the protagonists -- favoring the more is better school of thought.
Though obviously cribbed from Full Metal Jacket, 9th Company lacks the realism of the original. Rather than attempting to convey a sense of reality, Bondarchuk favors grand gestures, obvious symbolism, and pronounced archetypal characters, creating a film that mimics Paul Vanhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997) but without the ironic self-awareness that makes Starship Troopers watchable.
Apart from certain teenage boys who may, at face value, enjoy the film's characterizations of the fraternity of arms and the horrors of war, most viewers will have to squeeze what pleasure they can from the unintentional comedy of the clichéd characters and situtations, as 9th Company clumsily plods through its 140-minute runtime. For fans of bad cinema there's much to like about 9th Company including overly sentimental music, inane dialogue, overly-lit sets, unnecessary slow motion, and combat sequences not rivaled in their absurdity since Rambo III (1988).
While every viewer is likely to find a favorite over-the-top character and absurd situation, my favorite character is the physically and psychologically damaged drill sergeant who beats his boys mercilessly to make them good soldiers then plops down in a field of flowers for a good cry. While my favorite scene is the culminating battle in which all the bad guys clump together in front of the camera as they stroll up to the outpost all guns blasting like something out of a 1930s western serial.
Video & Audio:
Aurally this release is a disappointment. The only audio options are a 5.1 English dub or a 2.0 original Russian audio. Neither are lossless. The English dub features atrocious voice acting and is suitable only for viewers unable or unwilling to read subtitles. The Russian audio while neither lossless nor 5.1 is of better-than-average DVD quality with deep base rumble, but lacks the dynamism expected on Blu-ray releases of this kind.
Optional English subtitles are provided.
9th Company may be worth a rental by war-genre enthusiasts of an uncritical disposition and by fans of unintentionally bad cinema, but most can safely skip it.