Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Patriot

Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Patriot - 1986, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

An out f work ex-Navy Seal is all that stands between the Southern California coast and some Nuke toting terrorists in this low budget auctioneer from the awesome 80's.
Action flicks were all the rage in the 80's with guys like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Clint Eastwood making a big dent at the box office. Big budget action movies were awfully expensive however so low budget cinema came along to fill in the gaps between blockbusters. Thus you get mini-stars like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme also carving out a niche for themselves. Then you get the odd effort featuring a lower wattage star like this turkey that casts Gregg Henry as Ryder, a Vietnam veteran who slowly gets wind of a plot to ell nukes to terrorists in his own backyard.
Ryder is slow to get the hint that there is trouble despite the best efforts of his girl friend. She's more like an occasional romp buddy but the point is moot as she is killed within 24 hours of telling Ryder she needs his help. Turns out that her co-workers on an oil platform are also mercenaries who are using their work place to store two warheads they stole from a nearby facility.
When we first meet Ryder he is looking pretty scruffy and rocking that Don Johnson look. The amazing thing about Johnson is that he managed to convince a sizeable portion of American males that it was cool to rock a five o' clock shadow and wear sports jackets with blue jeans. Ryder goes for that look too but trades it in for a shave and dress whites when the Navy decides that the situation is so bad that it needs to reinstate a guy with no discernible skills to track down and disarm nuclear terrorists.
Luckily these guys are not very bright so Ryder manages to track them down and beat them up in several awkwardly staged fight sequences. Along the way he also finds time to tryst with an old flame and jump out of a helicopter for absolutely no reason. It all ends with a decent shoot out but the underwater scenes are so murky that it is impossible to figure out what is going down, besides your expectations.
Acting wise this film belongs to Henry. He is a very talented guy who usually plays the villain (he menaced Mel Gibson to sneering perfection in 'Payback"). He plays Ryder with a dry wit that is refreshing in a genre that often settles for horrible one-liners after dispatching guys in gory ways. The worst acting in this flick is so bad it's downright hilarious. That honor goes to Michael J. Pollard who is only on screen for ten minutes but shamelessly mugs his way through his role as Ryder's buddy. He snickers and makes so many faces per minute that you would think he was getting paid mime wages.
The reason to get this flick is because it's part of an impressive multi-disc set called "Explosive Cinema." You get twelve flicks on three discs and the other eleven are masterpieces compared to "Patriot". The films are all action-oriented dramas with each one showcasing how creative a director can get in order to compensate for a low budget. You get all manner of cool material here with plenty of exploitation elements strung together to obscure the limited funds available. The films also feature many actors on the back slide but who are still willing to emote like there's no tomorrow as long as the checks clear. The best one is Cameron Mitchell in 'Kill Point." He steals every scene as a mean spirited mobster whose only pal is his belligerent poodle, Sparky.
Best Line: "What's a Hiroshima?"

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: