The director and producer of Independence Day take a step back in time with this tale of a South Carolina colonist (Gibson) reluctant to fight in the Revolutionary War until a sadistic British officer (Issacs) kills one of his sons. Then it's the return of Mad Mel--and there's no chickening out here. The Patriot combines Ransom's avenging father with Braveheart's glory, adding muskets and ponytails for a whole new epic.
And what an epic it is: huge, handsome and compelling in scope, but also, unfortunately, convoluted and historically inaccurate--not to mention looong. And the attempts at comic relief ring hollow, especially against the gratuitous acts of brutality. Still, Issacs and the hunky Ledger, as Gibson's patriotic son, give assured performances in their supporting roles. But the real hero here isn't the Aussie Gibson or any red-blooded Yank, it's those front-line fireworks that'll have this Patriot conquering at the box office.