The Patriot (1998)
By: Craig Villinger on April 16, 2010  | 
DVD
Columbia Tristar | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 86 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Dean Semler
Starring: Steven Seagal, Gailard Sartain, L.Q. Jones, Camilla Belle
Screenplay: M. Sussman, John Kingswell
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
If nothing else Steven Seagal's The Patriot, his first movie made outside the Hollywood studio system (released two years before the much bigger Mel Gibson civil war epic appropriated the title), served as another worrying indication of the direction in which the action hero's career was headed. Once famed for his ability to bend limbs in directions evolution never intended, the tail end of the millennium introduced us to a sensitive new age Seagal who spent less time inflicting personal injury and more time philosophising while acknowledging the nobility of Native Americans.

Here the ponytailed one plays Wesley McClaren, a doctor in a small rural town that finds itself in a pickle when a local militia group led by misguided patriot Floyd Chisolm (Gailard Sartain) releases a deadly virus at the conclusion of a lengthy Waco style stand-off. With most of the population quickly infected the town is sealed off and the military is sent in, but when their attempts to contain the virus are ineffective it's up to the town's doctor, who conveniently happens to be a former government immunologist, to step in and save the day. Yes, evidently not even a genetically engineered super bug is enough to bring down Seagal as McLaren and his daughter Holly (played by a young Camilla Belle) are among the few townsfolk to remain un-infected, and when the militia learns of Holly's natural immunity they set about procuring the youngling to create their own anti-toxin. Ergo, McLaren is forced to take on double duties, protecting his offspring from gun-toting separatists while working with the local Native Americans to find a cure for the deadly contagion.

The fact that Seagal plays a small town doctor is the first of several ominous signs. Seriously, this is a man who should be the cause of medical emergencies, not the solution to them! I don't think anyone wants to sit through an action movie where the hero combines modern science and botanical medicine to save the day, but that's basically what we get with The Patriot. It's a full 45 minutes before Seagal pummels his first victim, and even on the rare occasions he does connect fist to face the violence is tame by his former standards, with not a snapped arm or torn-out jugular to be seen. For Seagal die-hards the story does include several essential Seagal cliches - in particular references to past associations with a shadowy government agency - and the perpetually squinting man mountain shows a surprisingly tender paternal side in his scenes with Camilla Belle (Belle incidentally gets the chance to show much more personality here at age 12 than she did in later Hollywood flicks like 10,000 B.C. and Push) but when a Seagal die-hard watches a Seagal movie they want action, and there couldn't be more than 90 seconds of biffo scattered throughout The Patriot's 86 minute running time.

Admittedly The Patriot isn't quite as bad as the b-grade dreck Seagal churned out through most of the noughties, and if you're looking for a tepid viral contagion thriller in the vein of something like Outbreak this might pass the time. With Academy Award winning Aussie cinematographer Dean Semler in the director's chair it all looks very picturesque, but your average film goer probably isn't salivating at the prospect of watching a once mighty action hero working with microscopes and petri dishes.

It's not necessarily a bad movie, but The Patriot is not a good Steven Seagal movie.
Video
Apart from a few grainy frames here and there The Patriot looks great, presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. Unlike Seagal's earlier urban thrillers much of The Patriot was filmed in rural locations, and the strong natural colours highlight director Dean Semler and cinematographer Stephen Windon's excellent eye for visuals.
Audio
The sole English 5.1 track is solid, but since The Patriot is lite on action it's not an aggressive one. The full sound stage does roar to life from time to time though, particularly when Seagal rounds up his cattle in the opening scene or when military choppers fly overhead.
Extra Features
One 4:3 theatrical trailer for The Patriot, which tries to make the film look action packed when it isn't.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
He may be able to obliterate sections of a man's skeletal structure with his bare hands, but in The Patriot Seagal is at his most aggressive when trashing a laptop in frustration at his inability to find a cure for the deadly virus while people drop like flies around him. This post-Under Siege Seagal, who is at one with mother nature and is more inclined to dish out a sermon than a lethal karate chop to the neck, isn't much fun to watch and The Patriot should only be viewed by those who absolutely must endure everything on Seagal's resume.

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