Some movies succeed in spite of themselves. G.I. Jane is one of those.

I did not want to see this picture. The whole concept of Demi Moore in a reverse-gender macho fantasy, complete with shaved head, put me off. Giving it a chance anyway, I discovered that despite all the military movie cliches that abound in it, I still got involved in the characters and their story. How could this be? Having a good director (Ridley Scott) helped, as did two engaging performances, from Moore (as O'Neil) and Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen's Master Chief defies what you expect in this picture (a tough guy with a heart of gold). He's brutal, because that's what his job demands, but he's not a screamer: he recites D. H. Lawrence to his troops while pushing them to quit his program. Oh sure, O'Neil gains the respect of the Master Chief in the end, but you come to understand why she wants it so badly, and you believe him when he gives it.

The movie's constructed a lot like Stripes, but it's not for laughs, this one.