One Man's Hero

on September 24, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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   The story of the Saint Patrick Battalion, which fought with Mexico in the war against America in the middle of the last century, is a footnote to history almost totally ignored in the United States. But it's a compelling story that has almost made its way to the bigscreen several times. Now it has--and a rattling good movie it is.
   The film is almost a throwback to the costume epics of yesteryear when filmmakers used every bit of the wide screen and told tales in bold strokes. The core of the story is a complex moral dilemma faced by the small band of soldiers but it's played out on the vast canvas of overwhelming social change. It tackles the subject with diligence but still manages to be wonderfully entertaining.
   Irish emigrants fleeing the potato famine were promised U.S. citizenship if they joined the army. Not only was the promise broken but the soldiers faced discrimination because of their Catholic religion. When the U.S. declared war against Mexico to seize territory, some Irish soldiers deserted and went over to the Mexican side. When Mexico lost, many were executed for treason.
   Director/writer Lance Hool weaves a love story through the beautifully photographed action and the intricate ethics of the drama with a very confident hand. Casting is spot-on with the strong, quiet Tom Berenger perfect as Sergeant John Riley, the real-life hero of the story. And it's hard to imagine anyone better than the multi-talented Daniela Romo as his love interest or Joaquim de Almeida as the swashbuckling rebel leader.
   After watching the classic adventures made by John Ford, Michael Curtiz, George Stevens, David Lean and the rest, people often complain, "They don't make 'em like than anymore." Well, apparently they still do.    Starring Tom Berenger, Daniela Romo and Joaquim de Almeida. Directed by Lance Hool. Written by Lance Hool and Milton S. Gelman. Produced by Lance Hool, William J. Macdonald and Conrad Hool. An MGM release. Historical drama. Rated R for violence. Running time: 122 min.
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