Directed by Roland Emmerich.
Written by Robert Rodat.
Starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger.
Release Year: 2000
Review Date: 7/4/00
Continuing the insanity of "a whole bunch of
friggin' movies" weekend, I caught my third flick in three days in
Buffalo, New York, formally known as the armpit of the US but has
since improved itself to the point of respectability. I was in town
visiting my dad and, since I got to town a little early, I thought I
would drop in and catch another flick!! Yes!!
Roland Emmerich. This should strike fear
into some of you, because this is the man that directed
"Godzilla"...or, as Gordon "The Professional" Stokes and I like to
say, "Gah-zih-ra!" because of one of the Asian characters' reactions
to seeing a 700-foot lizard/dinosaur coming at his boat. Some funny
shit, and not too racist, because I am somewhat sensitive to the
issue of stereotypical Asian performances in American movies.
(Note: I said *somewhat.*) Last year, Emmerich somehow convinced
Mel Gibson, highly-paid Australian action movie star, to appear in
"The Patriot," the not-quite-based-on-a-true-story revolutionary
tale of South Carolina resident Ben Martin (apparently, the name
Joseph Smith was taken) and his vengeful fight against the bastard
redcoats from Britain.
Even though the previews for this looked
like the movie should be called "Last of the Mohicans 2: Fuck Those
Brits", I thought I would give Mel a chance; he has been lukewarm of
late, combining the success of highly-underrated movies like
"Payback" with out-and-out pissjobs like "Lethal Weapon 4", a movie
I received for free when I bought my DVD player and have never
watched the entire film through since, sobbing my way out of the
theater on its initial run. This movie is epic--you will spend
three hours in the theaters, including previews—and has a pretty
involved storyline. But basically, Ben--widowed father of
seven--has given up the good patriotic fight since he led an ugly
skirmish at Fort Wilderness prior to 1776, the date when the film
opens. Independence is on everyone's mind, and the only way to get
it is to go to war and take down King George and his legions of
soldiers that are quickly taking position in the southern part of
the 13-state America that is in existence. Ben, speaking in front
of the South Carolina legislation, wants no part in any more war and
fighting, so he goes back to his home in the countryside. But, when
one of Ben's sons decides war is the best option and as a result is
captured by the British battalions, it's on!! Ben then goes into
Daniel Day-Lewis mode and starts whoopin' the shit out of those
But, thankfully, Ben doesn't spend the
entire movie gutting redcoats with his axe, an act that gets plenty
of action in this film. Ben's family life, his son Gabriel's
budding romance with a old schoolmate, the redcoat braintrust
planning their next maneuvers and speaking in detail about honor and
code of conduct, and Ben's recruitment of militiamen in the Carolina
countrysides all come into play throughout the course of the movie.
These scenes are handled surprisingly well, even if they are a bit
familiar to those who have seen any combination of "Glory" (the best
of these types of movies, in my opinion), "Last of the Mohicans", "Braveheart",
"Dances with Wolves", or the forgettable and regrettable tom cruise
misstep "Far and Away", far and away his worst film. (Admittedly,
this last point is debatable, but I watched "Far and Away" on TNT
the other day, and it is much worse than "Cocktail.")
And, the battle scenes were cool as hell. I
get into war movies like this, because I just can't believe that
people had to die like this! After watching enough documentaries,
movies, and TV series on the subject--not to mention hitting the
topics in the Smithsonian museums downtown—I know that this is
accurate, but it just baffles me! You are a soldier, and boss man
tells you, "Okay Justin, you're going to stand on that front line.
Now, when the guy in the funny hat yells 'Fire!', you just lay your
one round into whoever is standing in front of you."
"And then, while you're reloading, the guys
on the other side are going to yell 'Fire!' and between five and ten
guys are going to fire directly at you from about 15 feet away.
You'll repeat this, and then that guy in the funny hat will yell
'Charge!' and then you take your musket knife and try and ram it
into the guys across from you before they gut you. Keep an eye out
for those pesky cannonballs, also...they tend to take heads and legs
clean off if they come in contact with human flesh. Oh, and if you
survive today, we'll think that you are 'good' at this, and we'll
put you on the front line again for tomorrow's skirmish."
"Oh, wow...and, where are you gonna be,
"Uhh...I'll be on my horse in the back, and
if the shit hits the fan, I'm gonna hightail it back to camp. Good
Or something like that. Things do get
reasonably bloody here, but if you saw "Braveheart", "The Patriot"
has roughly the same amount of blood, guts, and limbs getting cut
off. One father in my audience apparently hadn't heard this movie
was rated R, since he walked his kid out of the theater after about
a half-hour. Parents...when will they learn? Mel is back in
supercop mode here, making killing look easy and fun as he slices,
dices, and shoots Brit after Brit. (Actual movie fact: although
Mel takes about 50 shots in this movie, all of them hit a bad guy.
Now, you may know that rifles back in the 1700s were not exactly
accurate, but this movie dares to rewrite history and tell us that
all of that history is horseshit!)
In my mind, this last point is a minus--in
addition, the feeling Emmerich tries to give us that this one guy
took down the entire British presence in the Southern states. So is
the extreme underdevelopment of all female characters in this movie,
most notably Mel's love interest--his dead wife's sister, played by
Joely Richardson. Yeah, I thought that was dirty too, but Emmerich
and the screenwriters don't think that is too big a deal. She seems
to be interested in him, and eventually, they just hook up. This is
very similar to the way Antonio Banderas' character in "The 13th
Warrior" hooks up with a villager for really no good reason. Oh
well, I guess almost three hours' worth of running time wasn't
enough to develop her character.
Even though it was a bit familiar at times,
lethal Mel and the regal-looking costumes and sets more than make up
for this and provide a good time at the movies. And, even though it
is 180 minutes in a cold, air-conditioning dark room, it does go by
pretty fast. Now, "Godzilla" is looking like a distant memory...
Rating: $8.25 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard