Roland Emmerich directs Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger and Jason Isaacs in this period war drama where a peaceful farmer is driven to lead a colonial militia against the British during the American Revolutionary war.
A more subdued Mel leans into his acting chops for a movie that doesn’t fully deserve them. This is more blockbuster than prestige but the unusual mixture of gloss and gore can be strangely winning. The third act has problems – a couple of key characters are killed off quite abruptly before the big conclusive battle set-piece and it proves hard getting back into the rhythm of this being a rousing entertainment. Still the sight of Mel taking on the old country with nothing more than a massive flagpole has its iconic pleasures, as does the knowledge he was probably still pranking away off camera then switching to dour everyman once the Independence Day director yelled ‘Action’. Isaacs made his name with his hissable bastard of a redcoat villain here. The entire package doesn’t work but quality elements like him make it a very serviceable if throwaway Saturday night filler.
Perfect Double Bill: The Bounty (1984)
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