Reviewed by Diane Squires
Rating: 3 Beans
ARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SERIOUSLY DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE BECAUSE IT WILL BLOW THE MOST SUSPENSEFUL PART OF THE FILM. HIT THE BACK BUTTON AND DONíT RETURN UNTIL YOUíVE BEEN TO THE MOVIE THEATRE.
There is a line from Titanic that goes something like this, "You unimaginable bastard". Kinda evocative isn't it? I mean, any guy can be a bastard but it takes someone really special to be so beyond awful that you wonder if he wasn't envisioned while the screenwriter was smoking crack. Either that, or the hero of the movie is so annoying, stupid, anti-charismatic or conflicted that the only way we could possibly root for him is if the villain is so damn evil, he makes Satan look like Betty Crocker. Ya know, like that guy in Titanic, the one who decks the heroine, tries to send the hero to a watery grave and makes fun of the lovable poor people, until in the end he is reduced to throwing helpless orphans out of lifeboats to their certain watery ends all the while worshiping the powers of darkness and singing along with Celine Dion.
If it wasn't for the unimaginable bastard, films like Braveheart, Gladiator and The Patriot could not be made. In essence all three are the same movie. An attractive hero who happens to kick ass in combat decides to retire and live a quiet life, until his loved ones are slaughtered by some unimaginable bastard, forcing him out of retirement so he can eventually take his revenge, but not before he massacres an enemy army or two for our entertainment. In the case of The Patriot the enemy are the British, the hero is Mel Gibson and the unimaginable bastard is Col. Tavington played by Jason Isaacs who was in Event Horizon, a film I truly loathe.
Mel is living the life of a farmer, and refusing to participate in the Revolutionary War, despite the fact that he's some big war hero. Mel's kid goes off to fight, but Mel stays home and the movie drags along while he argues with his friends or his conscience. He goes to assembly meetings where he and his contemporaries quote from the Declaration of Independence, because the audience is supposed to get a giggle out the fact that it hasnít been written yet. Finally the unimaginable bastard Tavington turns up, and within one minute of his first appearance on screen, he orders the execution of helpless wounded men, burnís down Melís house, condemns one of Melís boys to be hung, and, as a final act of sheer stupidity shoots Melís innocent fifteen year old son. Needless to say, all of this makes Mel kinda ticked off. You know the kinda mad I mean, Braveheart mad, the kinda mad that sends Mel into the woods with a hatchet in one hand and creepy looking gleam in his eye. Five minutes later, there are twenty dead British guys and Mel is so covered in blood he makes William Wallace look like a wuss.
Now, what goes on for the next, oh say two hours more or less, is Mel raises an army of good guys to fight the British in true Robin Hood style, while Tavington does his very best to prove himself a far bigger unimaginable bastard than your average cartoon supervillian. Letís take an inventoryÖ heís already shot an innocent kid and burned down a house, then he goes out and shoots some otherís guys wife and kid, then he burnís Melís sister in lawís house and shoots her slaves, then he herds an entire town into a church and sets fire to it (and spoiler alert: help does not arrive in time), then he kills yet another of Melís brood, so by the end he is so evil and skanky that half the theatre is screaming that he should be impaled on the American Flag. Granted, this is an action movie, and you want to see a final showdown between Mel Gibson and the Bad Guy, so I canít blame them for leaving him alive until the final battle scene. Itís just that you are left torn between the desire to see Melís character development as he comes to terms with the brutality of war versus his sense of decency and honor, and the desire to see really bad things happen to Tavington Ö over the course of a long slow twenty minutes or so.
To its credit, The Patriot has some great looking battles. From what little I know of colonial South Carolina, Iíd say that the filmmakers have created a fairly accurate representation of the wartime years in the south. When the battles start taking place nearly on the colonialsí front porches it is genuinely disturbing, far more so than the cartoonish brutality of the British. I wonít go so far as to say such war crimes didnít happen, but itís hard to swallow that one man could be responsible for so many of them. Not to mention the fact that Tavington hopes to be granted lands in the US when the war is over. Apparently the term ďlynch mobĒ has yet to be explained to him, and I guarantee there would be lines around the corner waiting to give him a hands on definition.
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