Just gotta say...
I saw this movie last night (the '87 verison, not the more recent one). I actually thought it was a more 'real' movie than the one from a couple of years ago. Let me say, I consider Denzel Washington one of the best of the big-name actors, and Dakota Fanning completely precocious and I generally quite enjoy their work. And I did in the recent version as well. Perhaps it was that polish both of them has actually detracted from the movie, in my view.
Watching the opening 10 minutes of the '87 version, I was completely struck by the raw intensity that Scott Glenn projected, and the acute vulnerability of Jade (sp) Malle. Dakota Fanning's performance was another in her oh-so...well, I guess I'll go with 'polished' repetoire. She was simultaneously wise and cutesy. Malle was vulnerable, wounded and needy. Fanning and none of that. I was more aware of her as an actress than I was of her as the part she was playing. Denzel was the same thing; he was too 'good' for his part.
Everything in the remake was slick. All the 'good guys' were awesome. Their failings were tragic in scope. It was too grandiose, even in its desperate settings. The people in this '87 version were simply more 'real'. Marine vets trying to use their skills gained in desperate times to a positive use, and fighting the internal demons.
Pesci's character was particularly fascinating. It's really hard to imagine him outside the context of Goodfellas and subsequent films...but this one predated those. We judge him with an view based on his future performance. And we say 'Yep, same ol' Pesci'. But it wasn't then. I liked the way that he was juggling things, but prone to losing control once he got into an adrenaline moment (like playing guitar at the picnic).
Two more comments: 1. the "Of Mice and Men" connection was SOOO much more effective than the farkin' bear. As soon as I saw the bear I was thinking, "OhGodPleaseNo! Don't call it 'Creasy Bear'!!! Nooooo! *sigh* too late..."
2. in the '87 version, Glenn and Malle projected a sexual tension into the roles (not between themselves, but the characters). Quite pre-reminescent of "The Professional" (Reno/Portman). She kept rejecting being called a 'kid', she kept vying for his attention not as a child, but as something more adult. And he kept rejecting her as a child. And there was a definite non-child/adult intimacy going on. It was pretty potent (regardless of one's thoughts on the issue itself).
Anyway, I was just struck by the raw intensity of this version. It was something I didn't find in the very-polished-despite-the-grit 2004 version.