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The Patriot (1998)
Mr. Seagal must be seriously out of touch with his audience. People who go see his movies expect action, violence, stunts and martial-arts combat: what they get here instead are a lot of boring speeches and sequences teaching us that oriental/traditional remedies are better than western medicine, that biological warfare is a bad thing, that militia members are a bunch of overweight or underage weirdos in camouflage outfits, that native americans (especially their elder) are always wise and peaceful and so on.
I thought "On Deadly Ground" and "The Glimmer Man" were bad, but compared to "The Patriot" they both look like serious contenders for an Oscar. There's more action in a Meg Ryan picture than in this film. No wonder this was released outside the USA first. I wouldn't be surprised if this sinks like a stone in USA theaters and then comes out quickly on video/cable.
I admire Seagal's honesty: he looks sincere and desperate to convey his positive message to the audience, but judging from the overall quality of "The Patriot", he'll manage to reach only a few hundreds people and further alienate his fans.
Maybe all the good bits were left on the cutting room floor: the trailers show a couple of scenes that are not in the theatrical release. But I don't think I'll be buying the Director's Cut, should it ever come out on video...
Incredibly boring and dull psychodrama.
When an abusive man's girlfriend ends up in a wheelchair and another one jumps in front of a car to end her misery, attorney William Hurt decides to bring him to trial. Emotionally-scarred Robin Wright is called to testify at a court hearing against her former lover.
Sounds like the beginning of a good courtroom drama, and with a cast that also includes Sean Penn, Joanna Cassidy and Amy Madigan, how can you go wrong?
A lot, actually. What we have here is a strong contender for the title of Most Boring Film of the Decade. I honestly can't recall seeing a duller, slower, more sophorific piece of filmmaking.
Does director/writer Erin Dignam think real people talk and act like these characters? I'm all for psychological dramas and introspective stories but they have to be somewhat interesting. Even depressing stories can be compelling, but compared to this, Ingmar Bergman's films look like Die Hard meets Rambo. This film is so sleep-inducing, it could be used by dentists as an anesthetic.
Don't take my word, see it and judge for yourself. But make sure you have plenty of coffee available, or you may never reach the end with your eyes open.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Manipulative but well done.
How many handsome mathematical geniuses working as janitors and whose ambition in life is to get drunk and get into as many fistfights as possible have you ever met in your life?
The main problem with Good Will Hunting is that the main character is as believable as Godzilla or Forrest Gump: it takes a lot of suspension of disbelief to swallow Will Hunting's behaviour and motivations. At least Forrest Gump was a nice guy: Will Hunting's attitude, which is supposed to be the product of an abusive upbringing and therefore "not his fault", gets on your nerves after a while. Sure, it's satisfying seeing poor Will defy the establishment figures (judges, psychiatrists and snob rich college students) and getting away with it. For a while. Too bad this get boring after a while, with the viewer always ahead of the story until the predictable finale. But as long as you don't think too long about the implausibilities of the movie's setup, the story is convincingly acted and reasonably well-told, though director Gus Van Sant doesn't show any of the offbeat touches that marked his earlier efforts (the closer he gets here is a weird slow-motion courtyard fight).
Robin Williams is fine as always, and more restrained than usual; the rest of the cast is adequate, though I would have loved to see more of Stellan Skaarsgard's math professor, easily the most interesting character.