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The Last of the Mohicans Reviews

Michael Mann's version of the creaky Fenimore Cooper classic takes place in a wilderness America circa 1757, where British colonists in New York state have become pawns in a power struggle between England and France during the French and Indian War. The principal characters are Hawkeye (Day-Lewis), a frontier woodsman more at home with his adopted Mohican father, Chingachgook (Native American activist Russell Means), and brother, Uncas (Eric Schweig), than the white British colonials; Cora (Madeleine Stowe) and Alice Munro (Jodhi May), comely daughters of a British colonel (Maurice Roeves); the insufferable Major Duncan Heyward (Steven Waddington), who has set his sights on marrying Cora; and the hateful Huron brave Magua (Wes Studi), who has sworn revenge on Munro for the Colonel's earlier anti-Indian exploits. Mann, best known for TV's "Miami Vice," here eschews his customary hip, urban locales in favor of the breathtaking colonial wilderness. THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS offers some of the most spectacular landscapes ever seen on screen, as well as some lavish, if confusingly staged, battle scenes. Given the two-dimensionality of the characters, the performances are all creditable, with Daniel Day-Lewis making a successful leap from art-house favorite to running, jumping, shooting box-office hero. Thanks to a hackneyed screenplay that also makes the historical background seem very confusing, these formulaic characters never stray too far from expectations, and indulge in dialogue that occasionally verges on self-parody ("What are you looking at, Sir?" "I'm looking at you, Miss"). Mann, however, successfully overcomes the weak script by dint of sheer directorial bravura, delivering Fenimore Cooper into the 1990s with roaring cannons and whizzing tomahawks.