Cajun Navy


A little bit more than a three hour tour.

(2019) Documentary (DiscoveryJon Bridgers, Carlton Boudreaux, Ben Husser, Allen Lenard, Kip Coltrin, Brayton Boudreaux, Laurie Bridgers, John Able, Chief Ashley Blackburn, Mitch Collier, Katherine Floyd, Lisa Boudreaux   Directed by James Newton

 

Often when we watch footage of hurricanes and floods on television, we feel sympathy for those affected but it’s quite a different thing when it happens in your own backyard. Being a Floridian, I’ve lived through several and have been fortunate enough to escape with little or no damage to my home, and none to myself or any family or friends.

Most people in New Orleans weren’t quite so lucky when Hurricane Katrina roared through in 2008. The local government was overwhelmed and they got little assistance from the feds. With people in immediate danger of their lives, a call went out for all boat owners to assist with the rescue of those trapped in or on their homes. Thus, the Cajun Navy was born.

So-named because many of those who responded were from Cajun Country – southern Louisiana – they have since remained a loose confederation of men mostly from Louisiana who answer the call when major storms cause flooding. Not only do they act as a kind of ad hoc rescue organization, they also serve to deliver supplies to areas cut off by flood waters and to assist local agencies and the National Guard, although their help isn’t always welcome.

The group doesn’t receive any significant funding and subsists on donations. The men involved are not compensated and have to take time away from their own lives, businesses, jobs and families to mount these rescue operations. It’s dangerous work; although there isn’t any record of any serious injury or death in the Cajun Navy, often the floodwaters are tricky and hard to navigate; some rescue operations also require them to put themselves into harm’s way.

This documentary, airing on the Discovery Channel tonight with available on their online streaming service Discovery Go thereafter (also available in app form on most mobile systems), follows members of the Navy as they head to Wilmington, NC in the wake of the massive 2018 Hurricane Florence. As one of the men notes, they aren’t needed to rescue people from country club estates’ it’s those who are poor, or suffering from mobility issues who are most at risk. Some don’t have the wherewithal to relocate even for a few nights; some lack the ability. There are always a few who simply don’t take the warnings seriously, or refuse to leave their homes even if they do.

These guys are all salt of the earth sorts, men who work the land, who work with their hands and who hunt and fish as a way of life. Sometimes we tend to think of Southern men as ignorant MAGA-hat wearing hicks who are racist and misogynist. While we don’t get into the political inclinations of these men (I’d be willing to bet there are some Trump voters among their numbers), they really do put the “good” back into good ol’ boys and they might change a few stereotypes along the way. Their creed is that they rescue anyone or anything that needs it, regardless of whether they have money, the color of their skins or who they voted for. They even help rescue livestock; a life, as one man puts it, is a life.

One of the more poignant and anger-inducing segments involves a rescue set at a nursing home where the administrator refused to let those in his charge leave even as the flood waters were rising. He told the Navy volunteers they didn’t have the authority; that meant nothing to them. People like that administrator are consigned to a special place in hell, putting money ahead of the lives of the elderly in their care. He’s lucky a family member didn’t show up later and beat him senseless.

Some of the footage here is nothing short of incredible. Most of it is suitable for all ages, although there is a segment in which Carlton Boudreaux, one of the original members of the Navy, is rescuing some livestock in rural North Carolina. An alpaca has ingested too much flood water and despite the best efforts of the ranch owner the animal who is clearly suffering has to be put down. Although the mercy killing takes place off-camera, that may be a little tough for the kids to watch.

It isn’t often that we see documentaries that show us this kind of sense of community. Navy founder Jon Bridgers points out that it’s easy to say “it’s just stuff; you can always replace it” until it’s your stuff. In an era where neighborhoods have disintegrated and people live in places surrounded by people they don’t take the time to know or interact with, it’s somehow comforting to know that there are people who take the word “neighbor” seriously and are willing to look out for those in need. The world needs more people like the Cajun Navy and they might just change your mind about the South.

REASONS TO SEE: This might change a few stereotypes about Southern men.
REASONS TO AVOID: Lacks any commentary from civic authorities who might have a different viewpoint about the Cajun Navy.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some peril and one difficult scene in which one of the men is forced to put an alpaca out of its suffering.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although estranged at the time of filming, Carlton and Lisa Boudreaux have since reconciled.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/23/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The White Helmets
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Miracle Molecule

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Beer for My Horses


Beer for my Horses

Toby Keith and compadres contemplate the next Ford truck commercial.

(Roadside Attractions) Toby Keith, Rodney Carrington, Barry Corbin, Claire Forlani, Ted Nugent, Greg Serano, Tom Skerritt, Gina Gershon, Willie Nelson, Carlos Sanz. Directed by Michael Salomon

I’m not the target audience for this movie, not by a long stretch. I’m not a big lover of country music, although I do admire the relationship between the performers and their fans. However, my neck is not nearly red enough to really immerse myself in country culture.

Toby Keith doesn’t have that problem. His neck is as red as the American flag…the white and the blue probably appear elsewhere on his person too. He drives a Ford pickup. He sings songs about drinking and raising hell. Good ol’ boy? Goddamn, he’s a good ol’ MAN. If you shoot him with anything lower than a .45, the bullets just bounce off.

He plays Rack Racklin, a fun-loving Oklahoma sheriff whose girlfriend Cammie (Gershon) has just taken a powder. Don’t worry, though; his ex-girlfriend Annie (Forlani) is back in town and you can tell they’re destined to be together because she’s totally less bitchy than Cammie although their names rhyme, sort of.

Rack arrests Tito Garza (Serano), a Mexican drug kingpin who has been bringing in meth that is turning the little town into a crap factory. Tito’s brother (Sanz) doesn’t like that much, and kidnaps Annie so that he can trade her for his brother – after which he’ll shoot anything white that isn’t floating in a tequila bottle. Mexicans are ornery that way – just ask Toby Keith.

The sheriff (Skerritt) wants to play it cool but Rack isn’t taking no for an answer. He rounds up his best friend, Deputy Lonnie Feldman (Carrington) and the silent but deadly bowhunter Skunk (Nugent – yes, that Ted Nugent) to head down to Mexico and save the girl. And shoot some Mexicans. For a redneck, that’s a party.

Where do I start? Keith is amiable enough as the lead. Most of the first part of the movie is a light-hearted comedy, but it turns into Rambo about halfway through and more or less stays there until the last scene. The change isn’t particularly smooth and it feels like you’re driving a Ford F-150 with transmission problems on a dirt road with lots of potholes. Once the movie gets to Walking Tall, Keith seems a bit lost as the tough guy.

The comedy is just plain bad. Carrington is actually an excellent performer, but here he seems to have gone to the Hee Haw school of acting and his character of Lonnie seems to have come straight out of an episode of The Dukes of Hazard. I don’t think I even broke a smile at a single joke.

There are some pretty good actors in the movie but one gets the feeling that they took one look at the script, cashed the check as quickly as they could and phoned in their performances. There’s no energy and no life visible anywhere in the movie. It’s just a bunch of actors going through the motions or at least it appeared that way to me. Maybe it was just a bad day, but even Da Queen, normally much more generous to actors than I am, was begging me to turn off the movie.

Nope, I stuck through the whole thing and the strange thing is there really is a movie in here somewhere, just not this one. I think that given the right material, Keith could be a movie star the same as Tim McGraw is now. Unfortunately, this isn’t the right material for anyone. Except for maybe the Nuge. He only gets to say two words (for the record, the two are “Circus Jolly” at the end of the movie) and the rest of the time, he just shoots things with his bow, the riff from “Cat Scratch Fever” coming on every time he cocks his weapon. That’s pretty much how I’ve always imagined Ted Nugent to be.

WHY RENT THIS: Ummm…ummm…I’m thinking…no, that’s not it.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Poor script, poor acting, and poor pacing…it’s just not all that good.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of violence, some crude language and humor, brief nudity and a little bit of drug content. Probably safe for most teens and mature kids.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although set in Oklahoma (and the Jackson County shoulder flashes for the deputies are authentic), the movie was actually filmed in New Mexico.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $666,045 on an unreported production budget; I think it’s safe to say the movie lost money.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: The Informant!