One Man's Hero

Though director Lance Hool lacks the visual imagination historical epics demand, he manages the basics of relating a stirring, true-life anti-war tale that contrasts the quixotic nature of heroism with the practical side of patriotism. Set in the 1840s, the film examines the consequences of the US Army's practice of importing and training Irishmen fleeing...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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Though director Lance Hool lacks the visual imagination historical epics demand, he manages the basics of relating a stirring, true-life anti-war tale that contrasts the quixotic nature of heroism with the practical side of patriotism. Set in the 1840s, the film examines the consequences of the US Army's practice of importing and training Irishmen fleeing the potato famine to fill the ranks of troops waging war with Mexico. Known as the Saint Patrick's Brigade or San Patricians, the Irish expatriates fought bravely for a cause in which they had no personal stake. Having distinguished himself for Uncle Sam, Sgt. John Riley (Tom Berenger) feels torn between duty to his adopted country and loyalty to his troops, who are persecuted by anti-Catholic zealots in the military. When a bigoted officer flogs Riley's men for sneaking off to Mass, Riley leads his regiment out of harm's way to Mexico. Reluctantly rescued by guerillas, Riley faces a dilemma after a Mexican general asks both the revolutionaries and Riley's band to fight for Mexican freedom. Having been treated abominably by the Americans, Riley's battalion rethink their priorities. Riley antagonizes rebel leader Cortina (Joaquim de Alemeida) by romancing Cortina's sweetheart, but the two men become gallant confederates. As face-offs occur in Carmargo, Monterez, and Buena Vista, Riley remains conflicted about his decision to battle his former comrades, especially Colonel Lacy (Mark Moses), who has tried to intercede on behalf of the mistreated deserters. What will happen to the San Patricians after America annexes chunks of defeated Mexico? Uninspired screenwriting and direction undercut the merits of this retelling of an obscure chapter in the history of American imperialism. But confident performances and the story's inherent provocative make the film worth seeing. Originally slated for theatrical release, it wound up debuting on cable.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Though director Lance Hool lacks the visual imagination historical epics demand, he manages the basics of relating a stirring, true-life anti-war tale that contrasts the quixotic nature of heroism with the practical side of patriotism. Set in the 1840s, th… (more)

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