• U.S.

Cinema: Losing Battle

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

Whose revolution is it, anyway? This solemn, incoherent, brown film is set in New York and Pennsylvania in 1776-81, but it often looks determined to analogize, one more time, the Viet Nam War. Local boys are indentured at saber point to fight in the woods, streams and back alleys–guerrilla warriors against the imperial power. Atrocities abound on both sides. There are no flaming heroics, no real winners: the visitors just get worn out before the home team does. The Americans are given a slight moral edge because the land is theirs. Well, it really belonged to the Indians, but that’s another imperialist horror story.

Maybe Revolution is the mother country’s revenge. Hugh Hudson memorialized Britain’s play-fair pluckiness in Chariots of Fire, then suggested in Greystoke, that its weary civilization stifled man’s best primal instincts. This time Hudson does not take sides. He hates ’em both. The Redcoats stagger across a battlefield like Monty Python twits; the colonists see defeat approaching and run like dogs. But this seems less cynical impartiality than a failure of craft. The film’s central characters have virtually nothing to do with the winning or losing of the war. Working-class Boatsman Tom Dobb (Al Pacino, whose bizarre Scots-Bronx accent sticks in the ear like a nettle) goes to war, quits and goes again. The patrician Daisy McConnahay (Nastassja Kinski) rebels against her snooty mother and sisters to become a kind of Cenderella Liberty, cheerleading Tom to cream those Brits. So does Annie Lennox, of the pop duo Eurythmics, whose charisma is edited out of this chaotic 2-hr. 4-min. mess.

At Manhattan previews, audiences giggled derisively through much of Revolution. A few saps (like the undersigned) were briefly moved by a three-minute close-up of Pacino fiercely nursing his son (Sid Owen) through some primitive Indian foot surgery. But then Kinski would launch into a furniture-smashing mad scene, or Donald Sutherland would drop by, a tuft of hair sprouting from his right cheek, and the toga-party roistering would recommence. If this reception is duplicated elsewhere. Revolution could achieve a dubious immortality as the campfire classic of 1986. –By Richard Corliss

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