The comedy-drama film “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is based on an impossibly true incident from recent American history, and yet is an uninspiring letdown. With the basic premise of a man’s journey through war-stricken Vietnam only in order to catch up with his old friends and hand them some beer, the film also presents a character initially in support of the war, witnessing its devastating effects, and ultimately turning against it. It is in this last regard that “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” falters the most, as it fails to make itself convincing or move viewers beyond any superficial degree.
‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
In the Inwood neighborhood of New York City in 1967, John “Chick” Donohue lived his life drinking away evenings at pubs with his friends. After having served in the US Marine Corps for some years, Donohue was working as a merchant seaman at the time but was not having the best of times professionally. Despite his own financial instability and the overall atmosphere in the United States at the time, as the Vietnam War was raging on, John Donohue remained as cheerful and light-hearted as ever, always addressed by his fitting nickname, Chick. Much like the entire country at the time, his own family was split into two opinions regarding the war in Vietnam. While Chick and his father were both staunch supporters of the American government and their decision to continue fighting the war in Vietnam, his sister Christine was instead terribly upset by the many deaths of young soldiers and found herself part of an anti-war protest group. There had already been the deaths of two young soldiers from the Inwood neighborhood, and one more had been reported missing in action. One day, while drinking at his usual bar with his friends, the bartender, referred to as the Colonel because of his past with the army and also his patriotic sentiments, expresses his idealistic desire. The Colonel says that he wishes he could only have gotten to Vietnam and handed the soldiers from their neighborhood some beers, and this idea suddenly latches on to Chick’s mind. He announces that he is going to do the same, and even before he can think it over, word spreads across the entire neighborhood. Mothers of the different men who were serving in the war give Chick trinkets and small items to hand over to their sons when he meets them in Vietnam. At some point, Chick really has no option but to actually carry out the feat.
How Did Chick Manage To Carry Out His Plan? How Did His Time In Vietnam Change His Opinions?
Taking help from his professional acquaintances, Chick Donahue manages to find himself a job as an oiler on a ship about to leave for Vietnam carrying ammunition. With only a side bag stuffed with beer cans for his friends and the items sent by their families, he boarded the ship despite his family asking him not to. After they arrived in Vietnam, he convinced his superior to let him off for three days and enter the country’s LZ Jane area, where intense fighting had been going on. When the superior refuses to let him leave the ship, Chick cooks up a story about having to meet his stepbrother to tell him of their father’s death and manages to get permission finally. Although his next plan of tracking down his neighborhood friends seems impossible, Donahue gets help from other soldiers instantly as they are simply amused by the man’s weird determination. He tracks down his first friend, Tom Collins, and from here, he makes a more detailed plan of how to reach the other friends and hand them cans of American beer. Although Tom advises him against setting out on such a risky adventure, Chick remains focused, and he quickly learns of a way to avoid getting into any legal trouble. Because of the ongoing war, American civilians were not allowed to go around on their own in Vietnam, and almost no civilians even chose to take this trip either. Therefore, whenever someone calling themselves, a civilian tourist went up to Vietnam, the army officials clearly understood them to be secretive CIA agents and did not meddle in their actions. Chick, too, is immediately considered a CIA official, and he later makes use of this as well.
After meeting with Tom, he goes to the city of Saigon, which was still under US rule at the time, in order to find some way to get deeper into the country. Here he met with a group of American and international journalists who were reporting on the war, and Chick immediately shared his opinion on their work. Among American nationalists in support of the war at the time, there was anger against the news media for covering images of the Vietnam War because they often showed the atrocities inflicted against the common people or even the soldiers who were dying without having a full grasp of their situation. The patriotic nationalists believed that these images were harming the morale of Americans and dividing the country into supporters and protestors against the war, which they felt was the Communist agenda. Instead, these people chose to believe the lies spread by the Lyndon B. Johnson government that America was doing great in the war. Chick Donahue, too, had such beliefs, and he complained to the journalists about it but was not taken much seriously, especially after he told them about his ludicrous mission. From Saigon, he hitchhikes to the nearest US airbase and manages to convince the officials that he is a CIA agent looking for a helicopter ride to LZ Jane. Once he reaches the dangerous battlefield, Chick foolishly calls for his friend Rick Duggan, who has to rush through the battlefield thinking that it is something urgent and important, only to then see his childhood friend appear with beer cans.
It is from around this time that Chick starts to get the real perspective of the war in Vietnam and what his childhood friends and thousands of other young soldiers were having to deal with. Along with Duggan and other members of his group, Chick experiences action on the battlefield as he has to dodge bullets fired at them and then sit still in trenches throughout the night amidst heavy tropical rain. Another helicopter is arranged for him as Chick asks to return to Saigon, and aboard this chopper, he comes across a really horrifying scene. A CIA agent carries out an interrogation of a local Vietnamese farmer inside the helicopter, and Chick shockingly sees the agent push the man out of the chopper once he gets the information he was looking for. This definitely dents Chick’s firm belief in his country’s honest fight in the war, and soon after, he realizes that the CIA agent is trying to follow him. He makes an escape from the base camp and wanders through the villages and forests on his own until he is found by another old friend of his, Kevin McLoone. After giving McLoone his due beer and catching up with him, Chick returns to the harbor where his ship was supposed to be but finds out that it has already left without him. He goes to Saigon once again and now befriends one of the journalists, Arthur Coates. Chick goes around with Arthur and learns from him the real horrors of war when suddenly fighting breaks out on the streets of Saigon. The two men run through the streets and bear witness to what essentially was the Fall of Saigon, and Arthur even helps Chick out of trouble. The next morning, Chick’s faith in the American army is affected all the more when an incident he had seen the previous night is reported as completely different. Although Chick had clearly seen a US army tank blow up a hole in the US embassy building, the army later claimed that it had been done by the Vietnam Cong forces. When he tries to tell the others about it, though, Arthur teaches him that the American army was also fighting a public relations war and was therefore choosing what narratives to present and what to hide.
Soon after, they spot a large explosion at the Long Binh army post, and Chick insists he needs to go there to visit one last friend. Arthur refuses to let him go alone, and he too accompanies Donahue, taking pictures on the way and then of the army camp itself. Chick looks for his friend Bobby Pappas and finds him among the wounded in the infirmary. He now also learns that the other friend who had gone missing in action had recently been found dead. Before coming to Vietnam, Chick seemed to have been foolishly innocent and unaware of the truth about war. However, ever since talking to his friends serving in the war, he had realized that the people back home calling for the war to be stopped and the soldiers to be returned perhaps made more sense. Not only does he understand that the authorities he had so far been blindly believing were keeping the real truth away from him and the likes, but Chick is also harshly made aware of the situation that his friends and others of their age are having to live through every day. The man had set out on this journey to cheer up his friends and give them a good time, wholeheartedly believing that a can of local American beer and the company of an old friend would be enough to cheer them up. By now, he realizes that none of his foolishly heroic actions, or perhaps nothing other than the end of the war, would be enough to compensate for the stress and dangers the soldiers had to face each day.
‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’ Ending Explained: Does Chick Safely Return Home?
Although Chick now decides to leave Vietnam at the earliest, a state of emergency is declared in which nobody other than US army members can enter or exit the country. He manages to make some arrangements, though and is able to fly out on an army plane. However, in a rather dramatic manner, his only company on the plane back home are dozens of coffins wrapped with the American flag, containing the bodies of soldiers who were killed in the war. Returning home to Inwood, he tells his friends about the real situation in Vietnam, and he also refutes the patriotic jargon of the Colonel. In the end, Chick Donahue visits a park used by the anti-war protestors as a meeting ground and lights a candle in honor of the fallen soldiers. His sister Catherine also meets him here, and the man seems to reconcile his relationship with her, for he now truly understands what she had been saying for so long.
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” rather conflicts with its tone, as it tries to walk a fine line between comedy and intense war drama. The result is that neither has any lasting effect and no matter how good the individual performances are, the film as a whole look just shallow and forgettable. In the end, the film also presents photographs of the real Chick Donahue back in Vietnam in 1967–68 and also in recent times, along with the four friends he had handed out beer cans to in that unimaginably dangerous beer run.
“The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is a 2022 Drama film directed by Peter Farrelly.