The most unusual thing about Asylum Studios’ low-budget, World War II actioneer “D-Day” (*** OUT OF ****) is its homage to Steven Spielberg’s landmark epic “Saving Private Ryan.”  Mind you, Asylum’s generically entitled “D-Day” doesn’t depict the horrors of war on as grand a scale of carnage as Spielberg’s memorable masterpiece.

Nevertheless, “D-Day” is unlike the typical Asylum Studios home video release.  This solemn-minded saga shares similarities with “Ardennes Fury” (2014), an earlier Asylum Studios’ knockoff of the big-budget World War II combat extravaganza “Fury” (2014) co-starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

For the record, Asylum Studios specializes in straight-to-video blockbuster parodies, like the hopelessly hysterical “Sharknado” franchise.  Happily, no savage six-headed sharks plunge through a coincidental time warp to distract the Nazis while they are blasting away at the Allies storming up the Normandy beaches!

“Operation Dunkirk” director Nick Lyon and scenarist Terry Mead focus on U.S. Army Commander Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder and his intrepid U.S. Rangers of the 2nd Battalion.

At dawn on D-Day, June 6, 1944, they embarked on a suicidal mission to destroy an enemy artillery post at Pointe du Hoc as part of the greatest amphibious offensive in history.  Lyon’s tribute to gallantry doesn’t attempt to be 100 percent authentic, but it manages to capture the intrinsic ‘mission impossible’ glory of this historic cliffhanger gambit.

Historically, Rudder’s Rangers scrambled ashore and ascended Pointe Du Hoc’s 100-foot cliffs looming above Utah and Omaha Beaches.  According to historian Megan Johnson, in her on-line article at “National Army Museum,” Army Brass ranked the guns at “Pointe du Hoc one of the most dangerous German defensive positions on the Norman coast.”

When German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel constructed Hitler’s Atlantic Wall fortifications, he had erected six 155mm guns atop the strategically situated cliffs.  The trajectory of those guns threatened the Allied landings.

According to Douglas Brinkley’s book “The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc,” those guns could lob shells a distance of fourteen miles!  Brinkley adds, the German confiscated this World War I era artillery from the French in 1940, and the guns could launch “four rounds per minute.”

Ironically, as both authors point out, the Germans never thought that Eisenhower would deploy troops to climb the cliffs.  Brinkley revealed that the Rangers suffered “a horrific 70 percent casualty rate.  A decade after D-Day, Colonel Rudder revisited Pointe Du Hoc and told Collier Magazine reporter W.C. Heinz: “Anybody would be a fool to do this.  It was crazy then and it’s crazy now.”

Director Nick Lyon begins “D-Day” as the chief protagonist, Lieutenant Colonel Rudder (Nic Cage’s son Weston Cage Coppola), reprimands a fellow officer, Major Cleveland Lytle (Randy Couture 0f “The Expendables”), when he complains that the mission was suicidal. Rudder relieves Lytle of command.

Later, he assembles his men and informs them that he will lead them.  When they land on the beach, withering German gunfire greets them and exacts its deadly toll.  Although it is nowhere near as graphic as “Saving Private Ryan,” the violence surpasses the usual shlock of lightweight Asylum movies.

A pusillanimous Army medic, Wiley (Sam Gipson of “Playing with Fire”), experiences his baptism under fire as he rushes to help a mortally wounded G.I.  Wiley typifies the kind of guy who is forged in the crucible of combat.  Initially, he starts out as an unarmed medic, bandaging wounds and dispensing morphine.  Before the day concludes, however, Wiley is armed and ready to maim Germans when he isn’t tending the wounded.

Weston Cage Coppola portrays Colonel Rudder as gung-ho.   Gunfire galore greets Rudder’s troops as they stumble up the beach. Charging up the beach with his men and haling them on despite heavy Nazi resistance, Rudder exchanges shots with the enemy.

The Germans atop Pointe du Hoc either drop ‘potato masher’ hand grenades down on the Americans or station themselves on the ledge of the promontory and shoot down at the Rangers as if they were fish in a barrel.  In truth, a cliff-top ascension was the last thing the Germans expected. Against outlandish odds, the valiant 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the cliffs on water-sodden ropes, while their brother-in-arms below them aimed upwards and swapped shots with Hitler’s henchmen.

Eventually, the Rangers took the heights. Rejoining his troops topside, Rudder catches a bullet in the leg, but he refuses to evacuate himself.  Instead, he shrugs off his wound as a mere nuisance and rallies Dog Company inland by his own example of leading from the front.  Our guys discover telephone poles rather than artillery pieces where Allied planners had assured them, they would find these objectives.

Later, they surprise several off-duty German troops, take them as prisoners of war, and question them for the whereabouts of the artillery.  Earlier, the Germans had dismantled the guns to prevent Allied bombers from pulverizing them. Two of Rudder’s seasoned noncoms–Sergeants Jack Kuhn and Len Lomell—ferret out where the Germans have concealed five artillery pieces. As the movie shows, they sabotaged both the aiming and sighting mechanisms of each artillery piece with thermite grenades.

Lyons may have omitted one death-defying ‘Rambo’ incident since it must have struck him as utterly unbelievable despite several eyewitness accounts.  U.S. Army Staff Sergeant William Stivison perched himself atop an extension fire ladder and raked the plateau of the cliff with bullets.

Ironically, the same winds which battered Stivison and ruined his aim probably enabled him to dodge the fusillade of enemy slugs swarming around him!  Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley summarized his sentiments about Rudder’s audacious leadership in his memoir “A Soldier’s Story”: “No soldier in my command has ever been wished a more difficult task than that which befell the thirty-four-year-old Commander of this Provisional Ranger Force.”

As World War II movies rank, “D-Day” qualifies as an entertaining, above-average combat maneuver.  Like the grim, no-nonsense “Ardennes Fury,” Lyon’s film salutes the battlefield heroism of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and honors not only Rudder’s leadership capabilities, but also the initiative of Kuhn and Lomell.

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