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USA 1995
Directed by
Mel Gibson
177 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


That Mel Gibson won the Best Director.Oscar and his film Best Picture says more about the way it chimes with institutionalized American sensibilities than artistic merit.

Directing himself with the subtlety of an episode of World Championship Wrestling, Gibson struts and cuts his way through nearly three hours of rabble-rousing heroics to ultimate apotheosis. To be fair to Gibson, by sheer persistence he manages some measure of success, overcoming the rather plodding opening when his film appears to be a lumpy old school historical romance, to settle into an exciting David and Goliath action movie full of well-handled battles scenes and ruthless courtly shenanigans played out within the cold stone walls of candle-lit castles, goings-on which are contrasted with the noble sacrifics of our hero and his band of followers.

Gibson plays William Wallace, a Scotsman who at the end of the 13th century leads a popular uprising against the tyrannical rule of English king Edward the Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan). In quite typical historical romance form, Wallace’s action are inspired not by political consciousness but the fact that the English have brutally slain his beautiful young new wife (Catherine McCormack).

What we initially get is essentially a historical revenge movie with a high body count done with swords rather than guns. This is all rather distasteful but once the story moves onto to higher stakes, the liberation of the masses from tyrannical rule (its clear where American foreign policy comes from) and the large scale, as spectacle it works quite well with a kilted and mulleted Mel transmogrifying into a superhero avant la lettre. So on those grounds, as pure Hollywood hyperbole, perhaps the film deserved its Oscars but, equally it deserves its frequent parodying.




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