Not really a Western but it passes muster
Revolution isn’t a Western. Still, the likes of The Last of the Mohicans and Drums Along the Mohawk are reviewed on this site and we are taking a broad view of what constitutes a Western. Then, Al Pacino does tell his son at the end to go West and make a new life. He and the boy have fought for the freedom to make their own way and follow the freedom trail. So that’s quite Western.
But really, it’s just a war film in tricorn hats.
It isn’t extremely good, though. Some of the reviews at the time were scathing but I think they were perhaps a little unfair. Maybe. The film does try to show the chaos of war, the accidental nature of it all. The dirt and casual brutality are there. It has been well said that any war film is an anti-war film and this is certainly the case here.
I do like the way that dark, intense music is laid over the extreme events, whether they be brutal battles or revels at a prize fight. It distances us, somehow, from the action and allows us to observe it. The music is by John Corigliano. Some of the Bernard Lutic photography is impressive too and catches the eye. Curiously, the locations for the American Revolution fighting were in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Dartmoor, England. Odd. Usually they shoot in Canada.
As for the acting, well, Nastassja Kinski plays the female lead so that’s a plus point already. She is from a posh Tory family and becomes a revolutionary partisan, a true believer, like a Red Guard or something. Al Pacino is the hero and he moderates his Noo Yoik accent very well, essaying an 18th century dialect. Sadly, the same can’t be said of Donald Sutherland, as chief Brit baddy, who attempts a north country British accent with, sorry, dire results. Al’s son is played first by Sid Owen as a young boy and then by Dexter Fletcher as a growing lad, and both do a decent job really, I guess.
There are some good bit part players too, such as John Wells and Joan Plowright.
Some of the dialogue is a bit sentimental-patriotic and that’s a weakness, and some of the Brits are shown as decadent aristos that need shooting, but by and large the war is not portrayed as a straight goodies vs. baddies affair and at the end Al is cheated of the land he was promised and is disillusioned at the whole business. Still, he gets Nastassja so all’s well that ends well.
This is not a great film but it’s satisfactory. It’s a whole lot better than that poisonous drivel The Patriot anyway, a junk American Revolution film to be avoided at all costs.
Some years later director Hugh Hudson re-edited the movie, adding a Pacino voiceover, and it is said this version is a lot better. In fact The Observer’s Philip French greeted the new version as “profound, poetic and original.” Perhaps it is.
I'd like to see the director's cut. I remember thinking the movie wasn't great but not nearly as dire as some critics made it out to be.
That's certainly my view.