Movie Review: Revolution (1985)

They even got the design of the flag wrong on the POSTER of the movie.

It took only ten minutes for me to realize that this movie was a monumental piece of garbage, and another twenty to shut off the television. This will be the first time I have ever reviewed a movie without having seen the end, and if the next 90 minutes were anything like the first 30, I am glad I didn’t. What we have here is a promising looking film on the Revolutionary War, a genre that has never really been tackled with complexity, unless you count The Patriot as being historically accurate; after all, the director insulted us by not even spelling the villain’s name right: Colonel William Tavington’s real name was Banastre Tarleton, but anyway, that is exactly how I felt while watching Revolution—insulted.

As someone who loves the American Revolution and obviously appreciates historical accuracy in films, I realize that the movies cannot mimic real life. Poetic license must be taken by the director when telling a story, I understand that, but the few errors I noticed in just the first twenty minutes should make anybody cringe.

Right off the bat, when the main character, Al Pacino, enlists in the “American” Army (it would have been called “Continental” in 1776), the officer who signs him up says, “Welcome to the United States Army”. I didn’t notice this for a few seconds, but then I had to go back and ask, “Did he really say that?” Not only did we not have a national army at the time, but we weren’t even the United States. Ever hear of the thirteen colonies? Apparently director Hugh Hudson did not. The enlistment in question happens when Pacino’s son enlists under false pretenses, and his father only signs up to be in the army with him. This is eerily reminiscent of The Patriot, when a father who wants no part of the war, Mel Gibson, only joins in the fighting because his son joined, again, without permission. Since Roland Emmerich is quite possibly one of the worst directors of our generation, I think it is safe to say that crap imitates crap. That said, The Patriot is still an excellent action movie and light years ahead of this dud.

Later on in the film, and by later I mean ten minutes, we see stacks of ammunition crates labeled “USA”. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It was then I knew I had to turn it off, but since I knew a big battle scene was coming up shortly, I decided to give it another few minutes of my life that I will sadly not get back. For the sake of the director, I will overlook this error, but I cannot overlook the fact that there was no national supplier of ammunition at that time, especially for a militia which is what Pacino’s group of men seem to represent, though it is never mentioned. Soldiers often brought or made their own musket balls out of lead, something that is depicted accurately in The Patriot, with the character of Benjamin Martin melting down his late-son’s toy soldiers into a cast for musket balls.

Now to Pacino, I wonder why he even chose this role. If he looked at the script, he could see it was a fragmented piece of trash loaded with discrepancies, and this coming at what was arguably the height of his career, as his previous film was the box office success Scarface. The accent he speaks makes his voice hard to understand. Because he chooses to speak very low, the part Cuban (still stuck in his head, I guess), part British, part Brooklyn (odd, I know) combination makes him almost inaudible. Part of me is expecting Pacino to start talking like Tony Montana, “Say hello to my little flintlock!”

Donald Sutherland also finds himself in the cast as a British officer, who leads his troops into battle in a charge against United States Army soldiers who are barricaded behind rocks and felled trees. He does not have a sword or a gun, but a long wooden pike with a metal blade at the end. This would be accurate, given his rank, but the fact that the blade bends every time he stabs someone and no blood can be seen, hidden behind a slew of cringe-inducing scream and slash sound effects, makes this “dramatic” moment comical. The same can be said of Pacino’s bayonet, as the top is nearly curved as he is putting it on the barrel of his musket. All this could have been avoided, though, because militia were not issued bayonets at all. And one more thing about the battle: random women and children can be seen running on the battlefield during the American retreat, screaming and tripping over one another.

As for the supporting cast, I thankfully did not see much of it. Nastassja Kinski is brutally awful in her few moments because of her German accent. Whether she was supposed to be a native colonist or a British transplant, the obvious accent cannot be ignored. Richard O’Brien, of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame makes his way in as well, though I did not get to see him—part of me is grateful for that.

Lastly, the opening mob in the streets of New York was downright pitiful. The colonists, for no reason, jump into Al Pacino’s small boat to steal it, even though they are all on the same side. A woman can be seen barking the orders to repossess the boat, but at the risk of sounding like a chauvinist pig, a woman would not have been ordering men to do anything in 1776.

As for what my rating will be, it is probably the toughest decision I have ever had to make. I don’t give negative numbers and hate giving something a zero, so I suppose a 1 out of 10 will have to do, just to serve as a place holder. Maybe one day, years from now, if I have some time to kill (literally) I will pick up where I left off and finish this deplorable piece of refuse, but hopefully that day won’t be coming any time soon. This film was nominated for four Razzies for a reason—please, if you trust me and value your time, stay far, far away from this nonsense.

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7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Revolution (1985)

  1. Steve Hancock

    I probably wouldn’t even bother trying to watch the rest of it, Greg. The rest of the movie hardly even touches the Revolution. Pacino and his son desert after the first battle, work, hide, and rejoin the army towards the end, in a poorly-executed recreation of Yorktown. I can’t remember half of what happened, but it was just very, very dull. They have a new cut, called “Revolution: Revisited, that is supposed to be a little bit better, which I may (And the relative word is “may”) watch in the near future, i.e. a few years from now.

    As far as films on the Revolutionary War, “The Patriot” is one of my favorites. It’s mostly a fictional tale, but the film does a good job of capturing the essence of what happened. I also love “The Crossing,” a TV-movie about the Battle of Trenton, starring Jeff Daniels as George Washington. Then of course, there’s “John Adams,” which is by far the most historically accurate work on the period, and also the most dramatic! I’m hoping that Tom Hanks and Playtone will get “1776” made soon, since they optioned the rights to that David McCullough book as well.

    1. Then of course, there’s “John Adams,” which is by far the most historically accurate work on the period, and also the most dramatic!

      “John Adams”, although very entertaining, was not that accurate.

  2. Chuck

    Didn’t realize that this Pacino piece even existed. I guess I didn’t miss much.

    I don’t think the makers of The Patriot got Tarleton’s name wrong. The fictional Tavington was supposed to be a composite of Tarleton and a couple of other British officers. They did get the British cavalry uniforms wrong, though.

    I remember there was a George Washington TV miniseries that came out in 1984. I saw part of it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

    1. I remember there was a George Washington TV miniseries that came out in 1984. I saw part of it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

      That was a struggle to watch. The last time I watched it . . . or tried to watch it, I got a little bored.

  3. Pingback: Feature Film: “Revolution” (1985) | The History Watchdog

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  5. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this film. But I do remember that it had portrayed a more ambiguous image of the American Revolution that one usually finds in movies or television. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why so many hated it.

    Also . . . Donald Sutherland had portrayed a British Army sergeant, not an officer.

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