The Patriot (2000)

THE PATRIOT is an appealing, if overblown blending of old and new-- 
"Mad" Mel, back in BRAVEHEART mode, and plopped in mid-Revolution-
ary War, a conflict rarely depicted on screen.  The core story 
takes all of twenty minutes to establish: Gibson's South Carolina 
statesman and former French/Indian fighter declines to go to war, 
choosing instead to single-father his seven children.  Which, of 
course, means that one or more of the kids'll get killed, Gibson's 
character'll go nuts, and some serious British ass'll start getting 
kicked.  (Subplots and plenty of 'em range from the fightin' urges 
of the oldest young 'un's to a sadistic British officer whose com-
mander won't permit brutality.)  Lots o' extras, too.  Red coats, 
blue coats, gray coats, tattered coats, and most worn by *real peo-
ple!  (As opposed to those occasionally digitally enhanced shots, 
like the flickering fake ships in the Charlestowne harbor.)  Plus a 
passel of slaves, as shown in several different contexts.  (There's 
something here for *every* revisionist!)

Director Roland Emmerich (INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA) directs with 
a big, broad, crowd-pleasing hand.  Most of his scenes have a work-
manlike quality to them, though he gravely overdoes the slow-mo.  
Tick tick tick, someone is slowly shooting.  Tick tick tick, some-
one is slowing getting shot.  Tick tick tick, someone is slowly 
*watching* someone getting shot.  Tick tick tick, someone is slowly 
screaming "noooooooo!"  (Hint: it's Mel.)  At normal speed, howev-
er, the battle scenes can't be beat.  An early ambush in the forest 
features Gibson wielding a hatchet to bloody good effect.  ('Tis 
the scene *before* that may be the most quintessentially American 
moment in the entire movie, when father and sons bond over... rifle 
firing instructions.)  Later, we're treated to the first of several 
open-field combat sequences demonstrating the absolute absurdity of 
formation fighting.  (See also:  Head. Cannonball.)  And under ev-
erything is a tasteful John Williams score that rarely drops bomb-
basts.  (The exception being, I believe, the finale.)

The large, largely no-name ensemble is exceptionally solid, from 
biggest lead to smallest supporter.  Gibson is his typically char-
ismatic, confident self.  (Geez, why couldn't *he* have starred in 
The lovely Joely Richardson appears as his late wife's sister and 
probable love interest.  She looks good 'n' thin 'n' hair-exten-
sioned.  The Brits, led by Tom Wilkinson, are all effective foils.  
And, short of Mrs. Tweedy from CHICKEN RUN, they're also the sum-
mer's most hissable lot...  Wish we were presented with more of a 
history lesson, however.  The details of late-Eighteenth Century 
ground combat are covered ad infinitum; the film's precious few po-
litical sequences, on the other hand, do little more than trigger 
musical "Schoolhouse Rock" flashbacks.  (Does the story actually 
*have* anything to do with patriotism?)  That said, the period de-
tail is fantastic, notably the eye-catching costumes.  And, in ke-
eping with the film's focus on armament, we're even treated to the 
process of making lead shot.

Humor happens more frequently than expected.  The jokes range from 
slight (Gibson testing a hand-crafted chair) to subtle (Wilkinson
explaining why officers in battle should not be harmed) to outright 
obvious (a practical joke involving ink).  Hour three, oy and how-
ever, is largely yuk-free.  That's when Plot starts taking more ma-
nipulative and, soon enough, more morbid turns.  (She also: Church. 
Burning.)  For those preparing for the worst, the last hour is also 
the movie's most predictable stretch.  Or, if you prefer, the most
*painfully* predictable stretch.  ("Obvious" is applicable to the 
*entire* film.)  As the final reels roll and the scenes become more  
stilted, *some* fun is find-able playing Guess Which Character Will 
Be Alive At The End?  I mean, there has to be one, last, big-finish 
battle before it's all over, right?  Let's just keep mum about the 
horrific amount of slow-motion used in said big-finish battle.  (In 
particular, beware brain death during Mel's flag throwing fiasco.  
Good God.)  Nope, can't have anyone leaving early, lest they miss 
their full dose of Grade "A" American Schmaltz.  God bless somebod-
y.  With Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Adam Baldwin, 
Rene Auberjonois, Donal Logue, and Tcheky Karyo. (Rated "R"/159 

Grade: C+
Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Musketeers

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros