Take a Drink: every time Al Pacino’s droning narration reminds you that he didn’t want any part in the way. (Revisited cut only)
Take a Drink: any time the setting looks nothing like the Eastern United States (the movie was shot in Norway and England)
Take a Drink: for the whore-like depiction of Loyalist women (or the saintly depiction of Revolutionary women)
Drink a Shot: for the rare scene that actually holds some dramatic weight
Drink a Shot: for questionable accents
By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Six Pack) –
When fur trader Tom Dobb & his son Ned pull into New York harbor one day, they are surprised to find that a revolution has erupted in the streets. At first reluctant to join the fight, Tom soon enlists upon learning that his son has already signed papers. As the Revolution turns to bloody conflict, Tom and Ned experience the war firsthand. At the same time, young Revolutionary woman Daisy (Nastassia Kinski) is ostracized by her mother and sister. She is desperately in love with the American Independence movement, and will do anything to further the cause.
The full blame for the end result of this film cannot be laid wholly on the heads of Director Hugh Hudson, or lead actor Al Pacino, as the production schedule was notoriously rushed and plagued by studio meddling. With that said, I have now watched both the original theatrical release and the director’s re-edit (labeled “Revolution Revisited“) and can safely conclude that this film is hopelessly beyond repair in any cut. For the purposes of this review, I am considering the “Revisited” cut, as it is slightly superior, if only because it is 1o minutes shorter.
It is clear is that director Hudson set out to make a gritty epic, while noting the frailties of the individuals on either side. This aim is admirable, and to the film’s credit; many sequences are gorgeously shot, with an eye for stark realism which is often disregarded in films on the subject.
Imagine if Tony Montana fought in the Revolution.
Al Pacino is definitely giving his all to the performance here. Sadly it is wasted both by an unfortunate choice of accent, and shoddy dialogue. This is especially evident in the narration, which ranges from repetitive to comical. Pacino fares better with the shoddy wordplay than other performers, though. Often their performances come off feeling unrehearsed and over-exaggerated.
Try as she may, Nastassia Kinski’s character Daisy feels shoe-horned in to play a character the 1980’s Hollywood perceived to be women’s empowerment. Her character is neither likable nor particularly deep. The principle motivation Daisy has for joining the revolution seems to be teenage rebellion, as the only glimpses we see of her family life is of her shrews of sisters and stuck up mother as they swoon over the prospect of British occupation.
Actor Donald Sutherland plays the role of the film’s main antagonist, Sergeant Major Peasy. Peasy is a career British soldier who takes it upon himself to kidnap Ned and force him into becoming a drummer boy. Sutherland is an immensely talented performer, and manages to inject some humanity into his character, but the role is mostly thankless; with his character essentially disappearing after the first act of the film, only to be brought back near the end for a scene to force a one-on-one confrontation.
The film takes place in the 5+ years between the Battle of Long Island to the Siege of Yorktown, and subsequent surrender of the British. Much of the film’s middle act is spent jumping months, years in time in order to get from point A to B. Instead of showing the passing of time dynamically, the film relies on Pacino’s narration to write off the events which occurred in between. This is shoddy screenwriting at it’s very worst, especially as Ned suddenly ages into a completely different looking actor without any warning.
Most disorienting about the film is that on several occasions, genuinely effective drama occurs. Particularly noteworthy is a scene where Pacino’s character Tom comforts his sickly son in an extended scene that just gets more tense and powerful by the minute. The film’s opening sequence in which Tom is swept up unwillingly into the war is also quite moving. These are bookended by moments in which bad actors and worse dialogue destroy any faith in the film improving. In fact, this happens with such regularity, I am left wondering whether those involved inserted the scenes specifically to accomplish this task in some kind of cinematic suicide pact.
Revolution is a failure in nearly every sense of the word, and yet it is an interesting one, which might fascinate the odd critic looking for the film that did for the British Film Industry what Heaven’s Gate did to New Hollywood.