Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Geronimo: An American Legend

The second half of Walter Hill was much better thank God. You get a good script from excellent screenwriter/director John Milius (Rome, Red Dawn, Conan the Barbarian) with limited chances for Hill to fuck it up. Though the title would lead you to believe it is about Geronimo (Wes Studi), the story is told from a 2nd Lt. Davis (Matt Damon) fresh from West Point. He is put under the direct command of 1st Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric). Gatewood and Davis are charged with bringing Geronimo in to Brig. Gen. George Crook (Gene Hackman - the fuckin') to surrender. Geronimo's warriors would be the last to go into the reservation system while the US continued to push the American Indians away from their homes. Something happens on the reservation to start a revolt and soon Geronimo is back on the loose.

Altough you never really get to the heart of the Indian exploitation, you do get an excellent surface piece that manages to hit all the main points. Hill is able to sit back and not do anything too distractive to the narration. This represents a great change from his earlier work that would later again be touched on in Broken Trail.

In the description of the film, I wasn't even able to get to the greatness that is Robert Duvall as the tracker Al Sieber. Duvall manages to create a compelling character out of what seems like a stock role. In fact, each performance propels this film out of run of the mill status. For Gatewood, Patric brings the same underplayed, gentleness to the character as he lent to August March. Patric has become the king of understated roles, but that's for another column... Even Damon shows flashes of why, given the chance, he can really act. Also... look for a nice cameo from Kevin Tighe as a general who takes up the search for Geronimo later on. You'd probably recognize Tighe best as Locke's father on Lost or as the bar owner in the action classic Roadhouse.

Geronimo was Hill's follow up to the bomb Trespass. Both films did poorly in theatres despite being worthy of viewing. I liked Trespass a little bit better no doubt due to Bill Paxton and the Demon Knight himself William Sadler as the leads. Still Geronimo marks a key point in Walter Hill's career of direction.


Speaking of cameos... I almost forgot about Stephen McHattie popping in as well. McHattie is the diet Coke version of Lance Henriksen... right down to the gravely voice.

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