I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Braveheart

1995
RELEASE DATE: May 24

tn_braveheartBRAVEHEART is an important motion picture. It won 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, it transformed Mel Gibson from the star of the MAD MAX and LETHAL WEAPON movies to a respected director, and it became a point of pride for people of Scottish descent all around the world, or at least in the U.S., I don’t know. So I figured there was only one way to properly celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film’s release: get around to watching it for the first time. See what the deal is.

Mel Gibson (the star of the MAD MAX and LETHAL WEAPON movies) plays William Wallace, a rugged young goofball and champion rock thrower returning to his village after years of absence after the war deaths of his father and brother. He gets home just in time to witness the English declaring prima nocta, best known as that thing that Tony Stark jokes about in THE AVENGERS 2, but it means the royalty are allowed to rape your wife. Even back then it was not considered cool at all.

But William goes about life as normal and he falls in love with a gal named Murron (Catherine McCormack, THE WEIGHT OF WATER, 28 WEEKS LATER) and he marries her in secret (Anakin style) so as not to attract wife-raping royal scum. But some asshole comes and kills his wife so he gets revenge and then becomes a revolutionary and leads a ragtag army of guerrillas and kills like seven thousand people and spends most of the movie covered in war paint and/or blood. But he’s still pretty charming for the most part and has a good sense of humor including mooning, etc.

mp_braveheartI believe the battle scenes were considered pretty new at the time, and they hold up well. I’m not usually the biggest fan of big swarms of muddy dudes running at each other yelling and swinging swords and axes, but director Mel Gibson (APOCALYPTO) orchestrates it with what I believe they call “aplomb.” Yes, you have metal clanging against metal and grunting and what not, but with the amount of stabbings, choppings, impalings, and bodies crumbling underfoot, turning into piles, laying and bleeding and turning white, it gives a real sense of the damage that was being done.

(Note: Some credit due to Mel Gibson stunt double/second unit director/stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers, director of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN.)

Wallace’s first uprising is smaller scale, and he’s very agile, running around, climbing, almost parkouring, and throwing rocks. He’s a wily underdog outsmarting his more powerful, but also more uptight foes. In one badass scene he and his guys attack an officer while they’re wearing the armor of the English soldiers. Their enemy warns that 100 soldiers are on their way back and he says “Were they dressed like this?” Gulp.

Then the first large scale battle, about halfway through the 3 hour movie, uses alot of strategy. The Scots are portrayed like the Bad News Bears of medieval warfare. They’re hairy, mismatched and grungy. They yip and shout and expose their asses and seem to be having a great time taunting the opposing army, who are led by snooty classists who have very nice matching armor and carefully lined up rows of archers, horsemen, etc.

One step of Wallace’s plan involves letting them shoot their arrows, and blocking with their clunky wooden shields. Once the shower of arrows subsides they stand up again and cheer and act like everything is fine, but it’s interesting because you do see and hear a bunch of them getting horribly nailed, surely killed or destined for lots and lots of severe pain. They don’t get out clean, they just act like it.

This is leading to a step where they trick the horsemen into running at them and then pull up the wooden spears they carved, and I gotta say, the bloody stabbing of the horses has got to be the most disgusting part of this violent, trimmed-to-avoid-NC-17 movie. So bravo on that one. That’s A Film By Mel Gibson all right. Whether or not he’s trying to glorify war he does not make it look pretty.

bravehearttwitterYou can draw all kinds of historical and political parallels to a story like this, and I know macho people have used the movie as a rallying cry for all sorts of causes that I wouldn’t agree with. Me, watching it for the first time in 2015, it’s hard not to see the English at least at the beginning as a parallel to the United States military of this century, since we’ve spent so many years occupying other countries. The English are tolerated, but feared and unwelcome. They see themselves as different from the locals and treat them disrespectfully, and sometimes flat-out abusively, until the natives get fed up and fight back with their meager forces. “Hit, run, hide. The highland way.” Insurgents, basically.

But also the English remind me of our majority white police forces coming in from other counties to patrol majority black neighborhoods, seeing them as something other, not understanding or respecting their culture. If the English in this movie made fun of the Scots’ braids and kilts, would it be much different from white cops taunting kids for their slang or their pants hanging low? Wallace tries to just live with it, but then they go too far. They kill his wife. It’s like they killed Radio Raheem. Maybe in the cold light of day he shouldn’t throw the trash can through the window, but they fucking killed Radio Raheem. That’s how Wallace is thinking when he starts his rampage.

(But where are his parents? Well, they’re dead.)

Wallace even has a “hands up, don’t shoot” moment, except in his case they should’ve shot him because he was playing a trick and  pulls nunchakas out of his hair. Holy shit, this explains alot. You know most cops have to have seen BRAVEHEART. So they see a guy with his hands up, they think he’s reaching for his hair-nunchakas.

As the rebellion starts, the powers that be call Wallace a “brigand” and “common thief” instead of a “thug.” But he and his people go line up and face off with a force that overwhelms them in number, armor and weaponry. It seems like they can’t win and some of them go home but most of them feel they have to do it to stand up for themselves. And some of them (Wallace) want to “pick a fight,” like people always say about protesters. I mean, it’s all there. #ScottishLivesMatter

You know what, I know they killed Mrs. Braveheart, but right now the community needs to keep calm and stay peaceful, maybe have a brief candlelight vigil but then get off the streets and make sure there is no looting.

As a violent adventure movie it’s really effective. Gibson’s Wallace is very compelling, a prototype of throbbing manliness, a great warrior, a sweetheart with ladies, a man with a code, a bit of a psychopath. And though Gibson mostly got props for coming into his own as a director here, I think his acting performance is also really good. I chose that thumbnail at the top because of the sad look on his face. He does a good job of showing signs of a broken victim of tragedy underneath all the warrior bravado. Also he does a good job of the warrior bravado. I’m sure his Scottish accent is probly terrible according to most people, but I was fine with it.

As Wallace becomes more legendary the movie takes on the feel of a tall tale. Two scenes pretty much in a row are so outrageous I kept expecting them to be dream sequences. First, an English royal has nightmares about Wallace riding a horse in front of a bunch of fire. The moment he wakes up Wallace actually kicks down his fucking door on a horse, rides in and swings a metal ball to smash his head in. Then he rides the horse up the stairs and out the window! It’s like he’s Candyman or something.

Then Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH), beard of the King’s gay son Prince Edward (Peter Hanly), discovers Wallace in her home, asking why she helped him by warning about an ambush that she considered dishonorable. As he’s talking to her he puts his arm up and flexes a veiny bicep. He looks like the painted cover of a romance novel. We’ve already seen her discussing his legend with her friend, who swooned as she talked about him killing everybody because of what they did to his wife. And she has this gay husband who won’t touch her. She yearns for A Real Man. She has to look away because if she makes eye contact she will have no choice but to flip that kilt up and go for it. And then she decides yeah, I will make eye contact and all the sudden they’re goin at it. And this is not a dream, this is supposed to be what actually happens. It works as steamy romance I think but it’s got this vibe of Ha ha, Scotland fucked your princess. I’m surprised there’s not a scene with the king crying because Wallace’s dick is so much bigger than his. And a part where we find out how much Wallace can bench.

I believe at the time there was some criticism about the movie being homophobic. Prince Edward is a sniveling, effeminate, coward who is always disappointing the king not just because he’s girly but because he doesn’t do jack shit. He’s referred to as a “sodomite,” he pushes Isabelle away, she hates him, she dreams of fucking a man’s man and then she does.

Edward has a hunky “adviser” (the quotes are implied in the scene but the real guy it’s based on really was his adviser) named Phillip (Stephen Billington, DRACULA II: ASCENSION) who looks like Karl Urban and tries to make him stand up to the King (Patrick McGoohan, who followed this with THE PHANTOM) and help him with military strategy, but the King throws the poor guy out a window. Allegedly some crowds laughed and cheered this, which does not seem like Gibson’s intent to me. The King is the main villain of the movie and this is clearly meant as a despicable act, but I can’t defend the performance by Hanly as the prince. By all evidence the character is a victim, a man not allowed to live his own life, whose lover is horribly murdered by his father, and who is shamed just for not wanting to be in charge of a war. But he plays him as a total bad guy prick. There is no way he’s trying to have some kind of dimension to this character. You are supposed to hate him. (Phillip seems nice, though.)

For a while I thought the movie was surprisingly respectful of women. Murron, during her short life on screen, has a strong presence and good chemistry with Gibson. She defies her parents and seems to know what she’s doing. Later, when he meets Isabelle, he respects her because she reminds him of Murron’s “strength,” he says. She seems like the smartest and most honorable of the royals. She goes on a diplomatic mission where she’s supposed to try to bribe Wallace, but respects him for not taking it, and she donates the gold to the poor instead of bringing it back. She knows the right thing to do is to warn Wallace about the King’s trap, and is smart enough to play dumb about it. And sure enough his majesty tells her “You may go back to your embroidery.”

I really like her character and her relationship with Wallace, but when you find out she’s doing all this because she wants to fuck him it sort of ruins it. Even if it leads to a little bit of soap opera justice when she gets to whisper to the king on his deathbed that his heir will actually be the bastard son of William Wallace. That’s like something that would happen on Empire.

Wallace also has an interesting relationship with Robert the Bruce (Angus MacFadyen, TITUS, EQUILIBRIUM, SAW IIIIV), a more privileged, pretty-boy Scotsman whose father convinces him to betray Wallace. But they really respect each other so there’s a real “why you sonofabitch” moment where Wallace is fighting this knight and the helmet comes off and it’s Robert, who had promised an army that never arrived to back him up. It’s a cool scene because Wallace doesn’t rage like you’d expect, he just looks absolutely crushed. I thought we were bros. He lets him live and it has a profound effect on Robert. He never stops feeling guilty, and he tells off his old man and basically seems to idolize this guy who has so much more honor than him. And he’s like “I’m never gonna fuckin sell out again!” like a director after he gets screwed over by a studio.

I knew Wallace was gonna get tortured and executed (SPOILER), and of course Gibson is big on the idea of being manly by withstanding horrible pain. He did it with Jesus, he did it with Porter in the theatrical cut of PAYBACK. Wallace even spits out a potion that would’ve made it hurt less. It’s important to him to not whimper or cry when they do their worst to him, and Gibson gives a very good “withstanding pain” performance, probly getting a little roughed up for real during the filming.

The construction of the scene is kinda cruel to the audience. I’m sure many people went in not knowing the ending and figuring he’ll be victorious in some way. So they string him up and then you see his two best friends in the crowd, hoods pulled up to cover their eyes, trying to look inconspicuous. In normal movie language that means they’re planning to swash some buckles and do some derring. Throw him a knife, swing on a rope, jump on a horse, whatever. But they’re not gonna do that. They’re just there to see what happens.

Meanwhile the King is on his deathbed choking. Is he gonna die, and his asshole son is gonna take over, and Isabelle is gonna be like “step aside and let a real woman do her job!” and she’s gonna save the day? And also Robert the Bruce is there, and he is outraged at his own father for betraying Wallace, and he feels guilty for when he betrayed him, maybe he’s gonna redeem himself by stopping the execution somehow?

And also the crowd starts chanting “Mercy! Mercy!” And I think that means they changed their minds and don’t want him to die? Are the people gonna save the day?

But nope, they cut off Wallace’s head. That there are all these people there who know it’s wrong, and none of them even feel they can try to stop it, makes Gibson’s damning of whatever system you take this movie to be about even more powerful. Because it’s true. Even people in powerful positions feel helpless to stop some of the horrible shit that goes on in our world. So they just stand by and watch.

(By the way, I really thought this scene was gonna be more gruesome. For some reason I heard he got drawn and quartered, and it’s not that bad. It’s kind of a long torment but it’s not that graphic.)

Whenever I see a true story or historical type movie I like to crank up the ol’ wikipedia machine afterwards and find out how true-ish it is. So I got a good laugh learning that this is considered one of the most historically inaccurate modern movies. Some of it is based on an exaggerated epic poem, some of it just movie magic. Wallace didn’t really grow up under occupation and yearn for freedom he’d never experienced – the invasion happened the year before he started fighting. They don’t know if he really had a wife, so that’s probly not what set him off, and he definitely didn’t fuck the princess or impregnate her, since she was a kid then and only married Edward when he was already a king and had the child in question 7 years after Wallace’s death. Also it was funny to read that they didn’t even wear kilts or plaid at that time and the characters in the movie wore them incorrectly even for other time periods. That reminded me of how Gibson’s excellent and totally inaccurate APOCALYPTO apparently mixed together things that were hundreds of years apart in Mayan history.

There’s also a funny story about a statue based on the movie being installed in the parking lot at the Wallace Memorial. It was widely hated and somebody smashed its face in so they had to start locking it in a cage to protect it.

braveheartstatue

FREEDOM! Eventually they gave the statue back to the artist. Another thing that would be cool would be if they just changed it to a MAD MAX, LETHAL WEAPON or PAYBACK statue. I’m sure people would’ve been more okay with something like that.

See, this is why you do these 20 year waiting periods on certain movies. In the thick of it winning all those awards and being cheered on by pumped up audiences it would’ve bothered me more that it was totally full of shit and had those homophobic parts and stuff. Now I can see the problems with it and also the strengths. It’s a somewhat crazy, but well-made and entertaining movie from a very talented and troubled individual whose movies I enjoy although I don’t always agree with them.

And that’s okay.  I can appreciate it without entirely endorsing it. I’m not gonna be all pure and William Wallace about it.

POST-SCRIPT:

Despite the great success of BRAVEHEART (including the 10 Oscar nominations and 5 wins) Gibson did not direct again until THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST in 2004. But that was his start as a writer-director and was another huge cultural phenomenon. After that it was APOCALYPTO in 2006 and one he’s working on now. He continued as an actor, including LETHAL WEAPON 4 and PAYBACK, but incidents with drunk driving, domestic violence, anti-semitic and racist comments in 2006 and 2010 seem to have irrevocably damaged his reputation, slowing down his career. His best film of this period, GET THE GRINGO, pretty much went straight to video.

Writer Randall Wallace had previously been a TV writer (Hunter, Starman, Sonny Spoon) but after this went on to direct THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK, WE WERE SOLDIERS (starring Gibson), SECRETARIAT and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. He also wrote PEARL HARBOR and Gibson’s upcoming HACKSAW RIDGE.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 25th, 2015 at 10:06 am and is filed under Action, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “Braveheart”

  1. The rating of that movie caused a bit of controversy over here, since it got away with a “16”, while far less bloddy action or horror movies had to be heavily cut for that rating. (“18” is the highest for theatrical releases and unlike your NC-17, a movie with such a rating can still be advertised and it’s a normal thing for theatres to show movies with such a rating.) But our ratings board was always pretty easy on award winning movies and/or ones with historical context.

  2. Pretty solid review — I loved BRAVEHEART when it first came out, and still have a lot of affection for it. My favorite part is enumerating all the continuity errors, like when Braveheart is running through the woods after thinking he rescued Murron, and at one point he doesn’t have a sword, then the next cut he’s tossing it into the ground.

    I did a report once for speech class about the difference between BRAVEHEART’s Battle of Stirling, and the real history of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. I think filming it with a bridge involved would’ve been too expensive maybe? The historical liberties are what give the movie a lot of it’s charm though, in my opinion. Then again, I think if you’re gonna just make shit up all the time why pretend it’s based on a true story? I guess maybe in 1994 people weren’t that into epic fantasy medieval war movies? That’s a shame if you ask me.

  3. I’m Scottish and I enjoy the movie a ton as a bit of entertainment, despite the obvious amounts of bullshit there is in the story. It’s like TOMBSTONE in that regard. Some of the ridiculousness of it makes for fun moments, like when the Irish show up ostensibly to fight the Scots, only to switch sides and join them, because…Irish.

    “First, an English royal has nightmares about Wallace riding a horse in front of a bunch of fire. The moment he wakes up Wallace actually kicks down his fucking door on a horse, rides in and swings a metal ball to smash his head in. Then he rides the horse up the stairs and out the window! It’s like he’s Candyman or something.”
    Or DARKMAN, since Liam Neesom played another anti-English Scottish hero in ROB ROY.

  4. What I remember about BRAVEHEART back in 1995….

    It came out a month after ROB ROY, both movies were about Scottish folk heroes. This was during a time when a lot of studios would get a whiff of another studio making a movie and then would fast track a similar one to compete. (the most famous example were those films in the late 80’s where a young kid would switch bodies with an older person: BIG, 18 AGAIN!, VICE VERSA). Only one of them could be any good, if any, right? So my cynical self figured why bother watching the others if, in this example, ROB ROY was pretty awesome. Adding to the fact that it looked kind of silly (I mean look at that wig) and Mel Gibson wasn’t exactly the same as he was in the 80’s. And this was before anyone really knew what kind of director Mel Gibson was, his previous work being THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE which I don’t remember ever seeing.

    So BRAVEHEART would have came and went if it wasn’t for a friend of mine who lived in a shitty apartment and sought solace from the summer heat by finding the longest movie he could find so he could enjoy the theater’s A/C. BRAVEHEART being 3 hours long fit the bill. He came back from it raving how great it was, comparing part of it to THE CROW that came out a year earlier (which, of course, fits the whole vigilante/revenge genre, but that was a recent movie at the time so it came up. When you are an angry-at-the-world young man, these sort of movies appeal to you). He offered to pay for my ticket if I didn’t like it and so I went to go see it.

    How wrong I was about it, I wasn’t prepared at how intense and violent it was (which is a plus in my book). Being a huge fan of MONTY PYTHON, I laughed more at the battle scenes than being shocked by it. Limbs were cut off with so much abandon that it became hilarious. The music was fantastic. The scene where his wife gets killed was both shocking and sad, especially since they actually showed the cutting. I remember trying not to cry from it. The fun of William Wallace going around and kicking everyone’s ass. I don’t know it’s still not a perfect movie, but it’s really entertaining. Really great supporting cast. A lot of the royalty scenes with the king seemed like they were from another movie like THE PRINCESS BRIDE or ROBIN HOOD (Kevin Costner version). Pretty ballsy, too, to have him tortured and killed at the end. Maybe it did happen in history, but having gone into the theater not knowing anything about it, it was surprising. Also in context with the time (1995, not 1305), you didn’t really see big stars like Mel Gibson being killed off.

  5. Mercifully, it pulled no punches… NONE. Most directors these days don’t have the stones for such blatant filmmaking.

  6. Fun fact: When this came out in the US another Mel Gibson film (well, he is in it…) went to #1; CASPER

    Less Fun Fact: CASPER was the first film I saw in the cinema which I did not enjoy. Previous cinema trips included MR NANNY, SUPER MARIO BROS (which I still like), TURTLES III and TOM AND JERRY RESCUE AN ORPHAN AND TALK. So either it was a coming of age moment for me (I was 8) or it was really, really bad. I picked it over POWER RANGERS for some reason, despite being a big fan at the time.

    So I take it this will be part of a Summer 1995 retrospective (a la the 10th Anniversy of Summer 2001 reviews) rather than another Summer Movie Flashback series? Any guesses for what films are going to be covered anyone? Some of the obvious ones have been reviewed here already (CRIMSON TIDE, SPECIES, MADISON COUNTY, JUDGE DREDD, MORTAL KOMBAT) and of course Vern’s thoughts on UNDER SIEGE 2 and DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (and perhaps DESPARADO) have been covered pretty extensively.

    I’d suggest BATMAN FOREVER (which I saw that summer, and did enjoy), WATERWORLD, CONGO, JOHNNY MNEMONIC, APOLLO 13, POWER RANGERS, THE NET, VIRTUOSITY, and LORD OF ILLUSIONS as most likely, with FIRST KNIGHT, BABE, DANGEROUS MINDS and THE USUAL SUSPECTS in the running and POCAHONTAS, CLUELESS, OPERATION DUMBO DROP, FREE WILLY 2 and A KID IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (young Daniel Craig) being outside chances.

    Too bad HACKERS was September, although inevitably people would say mean things about it and upset my fragile HACKER-loving heart

    Oh, and as is probably obvious by this point I’ve never seen BRAVEHEART

  7. This film contains one of my all-time favourite scenes. As Wallace screams FREEEDOM!!! He gazes over, and you think he’s looking at his two friends (who looked like they were having a heart attack at that moment), but instead you suddenly see Murran step into shot. Its one of the most graceful shots ever, in my opinion.

  8. I’m holding out for CLUELESS.

  9. It kinda shocked me that Vern never saw this till now and that some here still haven’t seen it.

    I saw this the year it came out and for a while there it was one of my favorites. Then at some point I just stopped rewatching it and it’s literally been decades since I last gave it a look. I should probably add it to the collection. It really was one of my favorite movies for I while there but I was also 13 and 14.

  10. I still consider this film to be the highwater mark in regards to big sword-n-axe battle scenes. Funny that an actor out-directed heavyweight directors like Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and (especially) Ridley Scott in this regard. I think Orson Welles’ Chimes at Midnight was the biggest influence on Gibson’s battle scenes. Let me find a clip…

  11. Skip to about 4 minutes in. Martin Scorsese called this the greatest battle scene in cinema history: https://youtu.be/etNNWp0aW-Y

  12. I watched this on dvd once as a teenager and enjoyed it simply because it had Mel going medieval on various asses and whatnot, this was before “what are you looking at sugar tits?” so I didn’t really think about the politics of the film, I don’t know how I’d feel about it today.

    One thing I find interesting about the film is it seemed like stuff from Ireland/Scotland was considered really cool in the 90’s, you had BRAVEHEART but also The Cranberries, Enya, Riverdance and so on, my dad was really fond of that stuff because my family is of Scotch-Irish decent, I remember him buying both a Celtic cross necklace and a VHS of Riverdance, just one of those weird things about the 90’s.

    Also I burst out laughing when I saw that picture of that statue, talk about a perfect demonstration of irony, FREEDOM!

  13. The Original Paul

    May 25th, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Ok… that statue picture is just glorious. I had to take another moment. That’s twice in a month.

    It’s been awhile, actually. Last time I had to really stop to appreciate something on this site, at least before “female logic”, was Vern’s statement of “It’s not as bad as it sounds” followed by the picture of the giant alien vagina suit.

    Anyway, BRAVEHEART. Man, it’s been too long since I’ve seen that movie. Put it alongside THE PATRIOT (not the Seagal one) in the category of “Historically ridiculous Mel Gibson pictures that I really enjoyed back in the day.” I’d like to see how it holds up now.

    To this day I still remember the butt shot. Anybody else remember the butt shot? I wonder which unlucky extra got the job of “mooning the camera until we stick a giant arrow in your butt-cheek”, and how many practical jokes resulted from the setup of said shot. Back then Gibson was better-known for his pranks than for drunken anti-semitic rants, I bet he did SOMETHING with it.

  14. I miss practical jokes and bad puns Mel. His Lethal Weapon video diaries were great. The “quitter” bit is a classic.

  15. I made this myself

  16. caruso_stalker217

    May 25th, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Wait…Mel’s directing a new film? FUCK YES.

  17. I caught the last 20 minutes or so of this on a Wal-Mart demo tv before I saw it and figured, ‘Welp, no need to sit thru the previous 2 1/2 hours. So I’ve never seen it. Same thing happened with EASY RIDER, unfortunately. I might still watch that one some day, tho.

  18. I love HACKERS, aka THE MOST 90s MOVIE EVER MADE.

  19. Knew you’d review this eventually, Vern. Weird that you never saw it until now. Seriously, why not? Too mainstream?

    This was a powerful movie. I loved Scotland after seeing it. Yes, it was a trend.

    You mentioned, Vern, how the end was a trick in that you thought his buddies were gonna save him (I did too). But I felt a similar thing when MURRON was tied up against that pole. I mean she’s so pretty and innocent. And wounded and crying. And she looks up at the distant hills. And you think FOR SURE that he won’t let her die. And then the guys slits her throat. And it’s followed by what might be the most powerful scene I’ve ever watched in the theater. I mean there have been other good ones – the end of SIXTH SENSE, the trash scene in TOY STORY 3. DANCES WITH WOLVES had some pretty good parts. But that one – on first viewing – might have been the best. And then we meet Stephen the Irishman, and then we get Stirling.

    So I guess the guy who carved that Freedom statue had some life-changing event happen around the time he saw this movie and because he loved it so much he made that thing and the people of Sterling decided to let him stick it there. I mean it’s a nice gesture and a touching story if you read about it, but it really is lame once you compare it to the Stirling Monument, especially the ACTUAL, original statue (or one of the original statues) of the real life Wallace, which of course is expertly made and just fucking HUGE, perched proudly on the monument itself. And yeah, no kilt. If memory serves he’s wearing a chain mail body suit and a tabard.

    But I don’t mind the historical inaccuracies, and if you really wanna be picky about it, much is not known about Wallace. To me, the biggest difference (aside from banging the Princess) was that he spent years in France in political exile towards the end of his life. That doesn’t gel with the Wallace we see in the movie. But show me a historical drama that doesn’t have-fun-with-or-just-completely-invent convenient plot points, let alone one that happened 700 years ago. Seriously, can someone name me one? SPARTACUS? KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? YOUNG GUNS? THE HURRICANE (which invented a racist cop and omitted Ruben Carter’s multiple assaults)? I bet even ZODIAC took dramatic license, and that movie was awesome.

    I also think that the battles in this movie have yet to be topped. Gladiator doesn’t come close. Even The Lord of the Rings – while pretty and occasionally epic in scale – fails to achieve the same visceral tone. 300 was also pretty, but in a fake, comic-book way. Everything else is either high-shutter speed slo-mo, rendered cgi, or shaky cam post-action. I know there are little exceptions and that martial arts movies are in their own category in terms of choreography and stunts. I’m talking BIG BATTLES with tons of extras. When you watch the behind the scenes footage of BRAVEHEART, there is just a fucking SWARM of actors and stunt men going at it full speed. I hear that Mel had like 3 hours of footage for Stirling alone (probably more). Would anyone even attempt such a thing anymore?

  20. Supposedly (according to Gibson himself) the impetus for making a movie with William Wallace at its center was a night of drinking at a bar in New Jersey owned by either a friend of Gibson, or a friend of a friend (can’t quite recall). Anyway… Mel gets hammered, passes out, his friends carry him into a back room to sleep it off on a couch, but first they modify his street clothes a bit.

    He awakens the next morning to find himself… wearing a kilt instead of pants, and it went from there. Go figure.

    Vern, did you *actually* just equate the death of Wallace’s bride with the death of Radio Raheem? Because I don’t remember any scenes from BRAVEHEART of Murron struttin’ through the medieval village with a boom box cranking out NWA at full volume. Also no recollection of Big Willy Wallace and his McHomies destroying a pizza parlor to avenge Murron’s death.

    Dude, that’s not “apples and oranges”, it’s apples and some bizarre fruit growing on a planet 20 light years from Earth.

  21. Also he’s married to Murron and nobody was married to Radio Raheem. And Radio Raheem had a different haircut and clothes than Murron. Really, other than the parallel I was making about how an outrageous death caused by overzealous authorities causes communities to retaliate despite their better judgment, there is nothing in common between the two. Also they are from different time periods and parts of the world. And have different names. And one is a girl but the other is a boy. What was I thinking.

  22. p.s. I should ban you from the sight for thinking “Fight the Power” is by NWA.

  23. The Original Paul

    May 26th, 2015 at 1:29 am

    Man, even I knew that was wrong! (And when you’re beaten on rap music trivia by me of all people, you’re in trouble!)

    Which reminds me… I haven’t updated my “Paul does Rap” forums thing since the great spambot invasion of 2014. I should probably get on that, but it was always meant to be an occasional pleasure, not a chore.

  24. Illinois Smith

    May 26th, 2015 at 2:22 am

    The steamy tent sex scene between Gibson and Marceau is extra weird because the real Isabella was like 9 years old when Wallace died.

  25. What the hell is an NWA? Neigbourhood Watch Alliance?

  26. I wished they put Mels video diaries on the LETHAL WEAPON blurays.I never seen them and only managed to find them in real shitty quality on YT. They should remaster that shit. But we all know why they wont. But it would be a great message to send. It´s like: “Hey, mel. We forgive you. All that crazy shit you said was dumb, but we have gotten over it. This is the Mel we want back. Why don´t you come back?”

  27. New topic: Amazing Larry’s condescending and borderline minstrel-show description of Radio Raheem and his “McHomies” = flawless encapsulation edging on parody of red state America’s blatant lack of empathy for black men killed by police and the communities affected. Discuss.

  28. “Ha ha, silly Vern. Those characters are nothing alike. Radio Raheem was a black man with all attendant scary cultural signifiers that justify his immediate execution, who lived in a place where people should just get over it and worry about real problems like broken windows, while Murran was someone whose life actually mattered! It’s like they’re from two different species! You see how funny this all is to me and me alone?”

  29. Maybe I’d feel better about this movie if I’d just seen it for the first time too. My one and only viewing was back when it came out, and I couldn’t get past the homophobia and the mock-historical nonsense. I hated the “FREEEEEEDOM” stuff. I was also sitting two seats away from a woman who screamed and waved her arms all the way through like she was at Space Mountain, which didn’t help my mood any.

    The point I’m trying to make is that Vern needs to review Rob Roy.

  30. As a Scot, I’ve enjoyed the “Ha ha, Scotland fucked your princess” scene for years.
    It’s the most outragious insult, never fails to make me laugh.

    The sentiment shown in this flick is still very much felt.

  31. Shoot McKay, I watched (and enjoyed) Mel’s LETHAL WEAPON video diary on HBO way back in the day. It was a goofy home movie shot on a camcorder and I assure you it looked grubby then too.

  32. Just a reminder that Amazing Larry has non-ironically linked to white supremacist websites in the past and obviously has a problem relating to any sympathetic non-white character.

  33. Was “bizarre fruit” an intentional reference to the poem/song “Strange Fruit” which is about black people getting lynched? If so, wow. If not, that is one sick turn of coincidence.

  34. Having studied some English history recently, BRAVEHEART now seem hilarious in that it implies William Wallace is the real father of Edward III, making him great-grandfather of Henry V and ancestor to every British monarch, all the way down to the present Queen Elizabeth!

  35. So I watched this last night, and thought it was an excellent example of Hollywood nonsense in all the best ways

  36. I’m Scottish. I know this movie is 99% bullshit. But I still love it utterly.

    It’s hard to get across now just how violently impressive the battles were at the time. People were still raving about the (comparatively tame) battles in Branagh’s HENRY V at that point, so the sheer orgy of aggression and pain was pretty mind-blowing. They’re still the best battles ever filmed, I think. Although VIKINGS on History has been coming close.

  37. I liked that one guy dreaming of Wallace coming to get him just like Rostov dreaming of Chuck in INVASION USA

  38. Fun fact: Friends of mine got married last year and they had the string quartet play the theme from Braveheart when the bride came out. As her father was walking her down the aisle he whispered to her: “You know they both die in that movie, right?” Thanks, dad!

  39. Vern, I want to second/ third/ fourth what others have said here: you have to review “Rob Roy.”

    Great cast. Tim Roth has the most interesting character.

    And I don’t want to give away too much but the final scene is top notch badass filmatism.

  40. “There’s nothing like the smell of quim in the morning.”

  41. Vern, will this whole 1995 retrospective include SHOWGIRLS?

    “it must be weird not having anyone cum on you!”

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