The Patriot (1998) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The Patriot plays like the cinematic culmination of ideas hinted at in both On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below, perhaps these were the story bits left on the cutting room floor from those earlier productions. It is tough to assess this Seagal movie, it isn’t nearly to up par with the theatrical releases that precede it, yet it is better than most of the direct-to-DVD dreck that would follow. Steven Seagal is doctor Wesley McClaren an immunologist with Native American heritage and a belief in Eastern medicine. He is also the only man in Ennis, Montana who is capable of stopping a biological virus that has been unleashed by a hell bent militia. This being a Seagal film it goes without saying that his character has a shadowy past connection with the CIA. So when the outbreak occurs the government agents call on the smartest most resourceful martial-arts practicing compound medicine specialist in the country, Dr. McClaren.

Down Semler handles the directing chores, in an unmemorable manner. Although, things are aided mightily by beautiful location photography in the wilds of Montana; showing off Semler’s sensibilities as a director of photography. The scenes (with an obvious stunt double) of Seagal riding horseback and lassoing a small cow is visually similar to sequences in Dances With Wolves, also lensed by Semler. However as a director he falls into an irritating pattern of staying in medium and close up shots-to the point it feels as if the actors are too close. The overbearing score steps on the film on several occasion, quickly becoming distracting and obnoxious, without adding any underlining musical connection to the storyline.

L.Q. Jones is a welcomed supporting player and reminiscent of his similar role in Lone Wolf McQuade, when his character suffers an unfortunate fate and goes absent for long stretches, the film loses all sense of energy and momentum. Take for example the showdown between Seagal and the militia leader Floyd Chisolm (The Patriot of the title) what seems like a dialogue heavy scene is cut to ribbons and ends with the villain being stabbed in the neck with a wine stem. This is the action climax in film featuring one of the biggest box-office draws of the era, and the scene is so mis-handled it is laughable. Yet the true piece de resistance is the ending shot of a military helicopter dropping flower petals on the infected hot-zone. It is cringe-inducing and amplifies the problems with the entire production.

Director: Dean Semler
Stars: Steven Seagal, L.Q. Jones, Camilla Belle

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