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BRAVEHEART(director: Mel Gibson; screenwriter: Randall Wallace; cinematographer: John Toll; editor: Steven Rosenblum; music: James Horner; cast: Mel Gibson (William Wallace), Sophie Marceau (Princess Isabelle), Patrick McGoohan (Edward the Longshanks), Catherine McCormack (Murron), Brendan Gleeson (Hamish), Angus McFadyen (Robert The Bruce), Peter Hanly (Prince Edward), James Robinson (William Wallace as a child), Brian Cox (Argyle Wallace), Stephen Billington(Phillip, Prince Edwards’s love); Runtime: 177; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Mel Gibson/Alan Ladd, Jr./Bruce Davey; Paramount Pictures; 1995)
“A vanity project if ever there was one.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

As other critics have glibly said about this ripping but inane historically inaccurate Mel Gibson (“The Passion of Christ”/”The Man Without A Face”/”Apocalypto”) epic in Scottish nationalism, sentimental romance, machismo heroics and over-the-top brutality in its hand-to-hand battle scenes, a vanity project if ever there was one. It’s “Die Hard in a kilt.” It’s also junk food for the soul, that won Oscars for Best Picture and for Best Director. Braveheart offers three hours of harmless entertainment to the non-discerning masses. It tells its fictionalized tale of Scotsman William Wallace (Mel Gibson), who at the end of the 13th century aims to liberate his country from the tyrannical rule of England’s King Edward I, called Edward the Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan). When the king of Scotland died without an heir, the ruthless pagan King Edward I seized the throne of Scotland and initiated such inhuman policies as prima noctae, which allows an English nobleman to rape a Scottish bride on her wedding night. When Murron (Catherine McCormack), Wallace’s love, has her throat slit by English soldiers the day after their secret marriage, Wallace leads a rebellion with his ramshackle forces of a few hundred against the superior English forces. In the historic battle of Stirling, Wallace’s forces win a stunning upset victory. Rewarded with a knighthood by the pleased Scottish nobles, he extends the war effort further south and attacks the city of York. The king is stunned by this unexpected turn of events and cannot count on help from his gay and ineffectual son Prince Edward (Peter Hanly), a stereotyped gay effete who is the butt of many homophobic gags by Gibson, and therefore the king sends his son’s French wife, Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), to bargain for a truce with Wallace. The two have a brief affair, and she leaves pregnant.

Filled with Hollywood clichés, this overlong simplistic homage to brave heroes over brutal villains runs its course until our hero gets captured by the English and gets his comeuppance in the final torture scene in which he gets disemboweled but never wavers from his macho pose even when he grimaces for a sec. All the characters in this costume drama are drawn along one-dimensional lines. The pleasure, supposedly, is in watching the charismatic pretty boy leader of the Scots wax idiotic in his battle cry of “Freedom!” and the well-staged bloody battle scenes. The proof that it was a crowd-pleaser is that it not only received mostly critical acclaim, but had a smashing box office of $168.5 million.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”