Published Feb 01, 2000This movie has one fatal flaw: it should have starred Kevin Costner. His puzzled, serious little face just looks so good next to a waving red, white, and blue banner, there is a whole lotta flag waving going on in this movie. Picture that, and the words "but we're American" repeated over and over again, and you get the basic premise, but neglects just how bad this bloated three-hour triumph of the ill really is.
We open up with a helicopter tracking shot across the verdant fields of Southern Carolina, music of John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) gloriously on high, then swooping down to the white farmhouse, brawny farmer (Mel Gibson), and brood of healthy wide-eyed white kids. It is only a few years before the 13 colonies are to become a nation under god, but there's a few cheeky Brits annoyed with the whole notion of manifest destiny, and so it's to war.
For any good war we need a good patriot, and Mel Gibson is as good as they come... except he won't fight. It's the classic bad-ass has seen to much fighting already, and just wants to tend to his family and quiet rocking chair life scenario. Rocking chair or no, the British are coming and their evil military commander kills one of our patriot's youngest sons and burn his house for treason. Nothing like that to get you out of the rocking chair.
With a few rifles, a Cherokee tomahawk and two pre-pubescent sons our hero engages 20 soldiers in guerrilla warfare, killing them all. And so it begins. The patriot becomes the legend, and it's battle won, battle lost between him and the evil commander for 180 minutes. Along the way there's a love story, some minor character development, and the slave issue (for some reason the blacks at the patriot's farm were the only free ones in the state: can you say cinematic white-wash?) There are some good battle scenes, but nothing on the level of "Braveheart" or "Gladiator." For sometime all seems lost, but this film is so long I stopped caring: I just wished the British would be done with these upstarts. Sadly no, the patriot is a pretty resourceful guy and he gets his showdown with the evil commander. Guess who wins? The flag is picked up, the British routed, and the rest is history.