Robin Hood III
Arizona Summer Wildcat
The second reincarnation of Robin Hood has arrived in "The Patriot."
The success of Mel Gibson digging up the cliched character once and calling him a Scottish rebel has warranted an encore in the guise of a colonial war hero. In fact, the only rule that apparently need be applied when resurrecting an archetypal hero of this sort is that he must fight the English.
It seems we all have deep-seeded issues with the British, or so box office sales show.
In this compilation of historical American Revolutionary War characters, Mel Gibson plays Benjamin Martin, an emotionally haunted victim of his own misdeeds during the French and Indian War.
Widowed with seven children, Martin is the ever-reluctant hero living on a very conveniently slave-free South Carolina plantation home. Yet when the British army arrives and ends up offing his second oldest son for sport, it's "Payback" time.
This is a road well traveled by Gibson and is probably why Columbia put everything into securing him for the role. Gibson has truly perfected the man on the brink between sanity and compassion, torn from his family and environment and forced to fight against overwhelming odds ("Mad Max," "Gallipoli," "Hamlet," "Lethal Weapon," "Braveheart," "Ransom" and probably more to come).
Martin's oldest son, Gabriel, becomes fevered with patriotism early on and enlists only to be captured by Col. Tavington, the man who killed Martin's son. Tavington plays the villain-you-love-to-hate - the type the audience feels the need to vocally berate from their seats.
Keeping with the theme of "Robin Hood," Martin eventually recruits a band of merry (and not-so-merry) men and proceeds to wreak havoc on the British through, get this, intelligent warfare.
Instead of the asinine styles of the British (and colonial) armies that thought it noble to stand 20 feet in front of each other and start taking turns at shooting the other in the face, Martin is realistic in his goals.
Using his outlaws in ambushes and supply attacks Martin, "Ghost" to his enemies, hamstrings the British with clever uses of minimal resources and men. His witty traps constantly paint the fool of General Cornwallis as a sort of Sheriff of Nottingham.
Much of the same occurs from here on out in the film. Based from the swamps, Martin's band launches its skirmishes and only joins the real war when someone else really important dies. This forces Martin to a new level of grief, and it even takes him one scene more than the last time to come to terms and rejoin the fight.
The main battle is a laugh and a half for "Braveheart" fans as you can swap these scenes between movies and be hard pressed to tell the difference. Among the similarities are a pre-battle rallying of troops with patriotic fervor, extremely similar cinematic fight styles and cheesy uses of "deceptive tactics" that only the British would be stupid enough to fall for.
As the average movie-goer requires, all-too-innocent love interests were coerced into the plot of a war story which detracted from the main story instead of helping. It was these added characters that end up dying before you could identify with them.
All together "The Patriot" was potentially a wonderful epic (rarely seen in today's cinema) that took on too much - but it was an hour too short.
Aaron Farnsworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.