Revolution (Hugh Hudson) 1985

Production Budget: $28 million
Worldwide Gross: $500,000
Subsequent Earnings: not much

Hugh Hudson (Chariots of Fire) was set to produce a Revolutionary War movie with Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, and Nastassja Kinski and was given a blank check to do it (GreatBadir empire.com).    The major story behind the making of this movie were the completely uncooperative behavior of the actors.  Pacino was difficult and egotistical and Sutherland was always complaining.  The legendary story from the set was that one day both of them were in the middle of the road shooting the breeze when the production crew was trying to get through (that road was the only one to the set).  Pacino and Sutherland continued to talk and only moved when there was a large group of crew complaining at them.  Kinski made diva like demands and the shooting was slow.  The movie did pitifully at the box-office and has not been released on DVD.

Is it any good?  I haven’t seen this.  Of the few viewer comments I could find, the say the movie looks beautiful, but that the story is lacking and the casting is odd.

Re-visit

A few more notes on the movie before I begin.  The actors were a very disruptive source that Hudson could not control.  Weather was terrible destroying several sets and Pacino even got pneumonia.  The script was also rewritten several times during the shoot slowing the production down further (IMDb).  The press for this movie was terrible and Pacino took four years off of any movies because of it.  Hudson has had only limited success since.

For the purposes of this review I am watching the only version of the movie on DVD which is the special edition known as Revolution Revisited.  There are some new scenes added and a voice over throughout the whole movie by Pacino.

The movie is about Tom Dodd (Al Pacino) who is a trapper in the American Colonies.  He and his son are accidentally conscripted in the army during the Revolutionary War.  At first Tom is an unwilling participant but as he and his son Ned start to drift apart, he realizes he needs to fight for liberty.  Nastassja Kinski plays Pacino’s love interest.  She is the daughter of a wealthy British family who rebels and joins the cause of the Revolutionary War.

You know, it’s movies like these that really interest me the most in doing this bomb blog.  These are epics created by great directors that are not seen by anyone.  Often I have found the movies are unfairly judged in their time.  Many times audiences are not ready for this director’s particular vision or the on set problems plague the reviews of the movie and they miss out on a great film.  I sometimes feel like a movie prospector finding little gems I can share with my readers.  It’s too bad this movie is a fossilized piece of shit.

This movie is a mess.  And I have just seen the supreme director’s cut so there so should be little to no excuse now.  The DVD has a conversation with the director and it is sad to see him blame everything else but himself.  Pacino was the only person being somewhat honest in admitting they had a great concept, but they rushed out a product which was ultimately flawed.  I suppose I should skip a bit ahead and mention the other addition to the movie which is the narration.  It does add a bit of back story which is missing in the original but most of the time it just repeats what we already saw happen.  Take for example when they take Tom’s boat to use for the military and give him a war bond to be cashed in later.  Tom is upset about his boat and his trappings being taken.  We hear a very old Pacino grunt out now “They took mah trappins’ and mah boat and fur wha?  Liberty?  We just traded a King for a Congress…I just want no part.”  I suppose you may be wondering about the language/spelling.  I’ll explain that right now.

Pacino has done many embarrassing things in his career and I have seen most of them.  I also don’t engage in hyperbole (or at least I try to) so when I say what follows believe that I truly mean it.  This is the most embarrassing thing Al Pacino has ever done.  Ever!  Yes, I am well aware of Gigli.  EVER!  Why is it so terrible?  This is why I wish I could add some video clips because it is something you have to kind of experience to believe.  However I will try to explain it as best I can.  He has an accent in this movie.  The best way I can describe it is a little Scarface with a bit of the Bronx with a touch of stereotypical white actor playing an Indian.  You know, “Me John…Big Tree!”  So he has lines like “Hey, choo owe me a hundren and fifty acres of land…ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY ACRES!   Ahh fought wit choo againsts dem red coats, and I’d deserves my hundred fifty acres yoo bastard”  He also has a scene where his son is close to dying (and it is longer than the Trinty death in Matrix Revolutions) and it is the funniest shit.  Try your gruntiest Pacino voice as he repeats “Haw Ned…don’t choo drown on me Ned…haw Ned.  I’M HOLDING CHOO NED!…Aw, aw Ned…I’m rockin’ ya like you was mah baby Ned…like you was mah liddle baby Ned. Feel me holdin’ you Ned?  DON’T YOU LEGGO OF ME NED!  Haw Ned…haaaaaw Ned…” and so on.  I officially laughed my balls off on that scene.  I cried from laughter.  It was great.

Of course, I haven’t even really gotten to the performances.  They suck.  Pacino for the most part seems bored and grunts out his lines like he doesn’t even care.  Which is odd cause in the DVD conversation he says he was very passionate about the project.  I mentioned earlier that Donald Sutherland is in this movie but he might as well be Sir Not Appearing in this Film.  He has probably four full minutes of screen time.  I am not kidding.  Oh!  I could not forget this!  Someone had the bright idea to put like a one inch in diameter hairy mole on Sutherland’s face.  That is so hilarious and distracting every time he was on screen it was like I was re-enacting an Austin Powers sketch again.  Moley moley moley moley.  Seriously, who thought that shit was a good idea?  It almost seems like an on set prank that made it onto the screen.  Some jackass gives Sutherland an extra nipple with hair on it, tells him to stick it on his face, and says the director thought it would “add character”.  No, it doesn’t.  It makes you look like someone taped a patch of pube hair to your face.  I just want to reach through the screen and pick that off.  But I digress.  Anyway rounding out the cast is Nastassja Kinski who is the least embarrassing of the bunch.  While I don’t buy her for a second as the daughter of an elite British family, she does give the most emotion and effort out of her performance.

Now I will take some time to give the movie some credit where it’s due.  The movie is gorgeous.  The sets, the props, and the costumes all look authentic.  Hudson really makes you feel as if you are living in the times with an accurate depiction of the Colonies.  I will also say he had a great concept for a story on paper.  We follow the Revolutionary War from a new perspective.  We don’t delve too deeply into the political and economic reasons for why there was a war.  We follow an illiterate nobody who is caught in this historic event and how it affects him and his son.  He is an anti hero in that at first he does not care about the war.  He just wants to protect his only living family in Ned and wants to stay as far away from bloodshed as possible.  But as the war progresses and he and Ned drift apart, Tom has to re-evaluate his position on things.  Again, IN CONCEPT, that is a novel approach.

My problem is the writing is not up to par with the idea.  This is supposed to be an intimate character study set in the middle of the Revolutionary War.  However the movie seems to be confused about what it really is.  It is unsure if it wants to be about Tom and Ned, or an epic war film with just some interesting characters to follow.  Because of that, we don’t really get much growth of character from Tom or much back story.  And on the other end, we don’t get much of a spectacle from our epic war movie.  We get only one battle sequence in the entire movie and not much else as far as action.  Now I am not some viewer with ADD wanting Michael Bay battle scenes, but you do have to pique our interest every once and a while with some dramatic tension.

Like I said the writing is very poor.  I have no idea when the events in this movie take place in relation to the actual war, nor do I know where this is.  The plot is set in a span of eight years, and we don’t know when these chapters are in this timeline.  We don’t know how the war effort is, how things are going or anything.  We are given no context and instead thrown from one chapter to another.  The romance between Pacino and Kinski is also pretty laughable.  These characters have the strangest knack of running into one another repeatedly despite the war being fought over several hundred miles and years passing by.  These two meet like they both have a morning date at Starbucks every day.  The romance also comes completely out of nowhere.  These two characters exchange a about 10 lines between one another, and yet near the end we are supposed to believe they are soul mates and have loved each other since the beginning and will till the end of time.  Mary Tyler Moore and Lou had more established sexual chemistry than these two.

Now I’ve had some fun at the movie’s expense but I will say this is not horrible.  There are a lot of good bits and I can see why the people involved see it as a kind of special movie.  While there are some good bits, this movie needed to be completely re-cast, re-edited, and they needed a few more re-writes before I would consider it a good movie.  In the end I was a little bored by it.  This is probably a tad sacrilege but I think I will end up seeing Mel Gibson’s The Patriot before I ever consider seeing Revolution again.  Sure, it takes history and bends it over a table, but it has Martin Riggs taking on Redcoats.  The sheer camp alone puts it over Revolution.  Well, I say that, but then again I will always have Pacino’s accent.

Haw Ned…Haaaaaaw Ned…

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