German-born Roland Emmerich has given us such summer blockbusters as Godzilla and Independence Day. He’s not exactly the first person you’d invite to rewrite American history. Thankfully, he didn’t mangle the facts (or the spirit) of the American Revolution too badly.
Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, a fictitious figure who lived during the American revolution. He’s a peaceful man who refuses to go to war, which means that the screenwriters have to slaughter his family in order to provoke him (not unlike the situation in Gladiator).
R for violence
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Once provoked, Gibson fights like a madman, and Emmerich turns the history lesson into an action movie. He gets the adrenaline pumping by reminding us that during the revolution, guns took a long time to load. Therefore, a hand-axe can actually make a fairly effective weapon. In Gibson’s first battle scene, he uses crude weapons to take out an entire company of redcoats singlehandedly. By the time the British soldiers are all dead, Gibson himself is coated in gore and blood, looking a bit like a redcoat himself.
The Patriot is not for all tastes; it’s violent, it’s macho, and as Spike Lee says, it whitewashes American history, glossing over the whole issue of slavery. However, if you’re not turned away by that, give it a look. For violent, macho, whitewashing action movies, The Patriot isn’t too bad.