Movie Review: One Man’s Hero (1998)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day two days ago, I chose a movie that portrays an almost unknown story of an Irish battalion during the Mexican-American War, that lasted from 1846-1848. This movie is one of the more underrated movies I have seen, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is of Irish descent, or has an interest in history.

One Man’s Hero tells the story of a group of badly mistreated Irish soldiers who enlisted in the American army at the onset of the war. While being whipped for wanting to go to Catholic mass, their leader, Sergeant John Riley, played by Tom Berenger, rescues them and the group of soldiers desert to Mexico. It is there where they are captured by a group of bandits led by Cortina, played by Joaquin De Almeida, who hold them prisoner until the war begins.

It is at that time that a Mexican general comes to the camp of the bandits and grants them amnesty, along with the Irish deserters, if they fight for Mexico. Both groups agree, and Berenger’s group is given their own brigade, which they call the San Patricio’s. They have their own flag, stitched by Almeida’s wife, played by Daniela Roma, that is very reminiscent of the many green Irish brigade flags seen during the Civil War.

The movie then goes on to show the battles in which the San Patricio’s were involved in, including Monterrey, Buena Vista, and Churubusco. The film ends with the fall of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. The ending is a very sad one, as the Irish deserters are captured. Those who deserted before the war are to be whipped and branded on their face with a “D” for “Deserter”, whereas those who left the army after the war began were to be hanged. It is estimated that after John Reilly and his men deserted, that at least 700 more Irishmen in the American army left to go fight for him.

One of the main reasons why this film is so underrated is because of the well choreographed battle scenes, and great Mexican uniform designs. My only pet peeve about the battle sequences, and you will read this a lot on this blog, is the lack of recoil on the cannons after they are fired. Not one cannon even moves so much as an inch backward, and this is very annoying because cannons sometimes recoiled as much as three feet. Granted they are using blanks for the movie, but they could have used a more realistic powder charge. Another thing is a smoke ring that you can clearly see being fired and it floats across the screen. Smoke rings are only caused when shooting a blank, and it is a mystery why the director chose to leave such glaring errors in the film.

As for the rest of the cast, James Gammon is wonderfully hilarious in his role as General Zachary Taylor, while Patrick Bergin plays a near perfect General Winfield Scott. Mark Moses is also cast well as the sympathetic colonel, Benton Lacey, who pleads to save John Reilly’s life. I have a deep respect for this film, despite the many cringe moments, and will give it a 7 out of 10.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: One Man’s Hero (1998)

  1. As a descendant of the the Earl of Tyrconnel (Red Hugh) one of the two Earls mentioned here, this story has deep historical significance and, as this reviewer rights pointed out, has a long and favorable link to the Irish in the New World. I enjoyed this movie very much and agree it should have been given wider exposure. You can debate the issue of the “traitors” but freedom of religion is what the Pilgrims came to America to enjoy and it trumps all other freedoms. To this day, this group of Irish immigrants is widely celebrated in Mexico…another unknown fact that is lost; probably another sacrifice on the altar of political correctness. A charming side note to this true story is the persuasive argument for the origin of the term Gringo. Most of the Irish wore green tunics (coats) and if you heard Irish immigrants refer to each other, in thick brogues, as green coats, it’s not a stretch to see how the Mexicans heard that as ‘gringos’ Not a confirmed fact, but, as I said, certainly persuasive and even plausible. Viva Mexico and Erin go bragh

  2. Pingback: The Irish Brigades Clash at Fredericksburg « From New York to San Francisco

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