British press up in arms over 'Patriot' mis-history


The Revolutionary War may have ended more than 200 years ago, but the British are still taking potshots at the Americans.

The latest target is "The Patriot," the mega-budget Mel Gibson film opening June 28.

Set during the War of Independence, the film has been trashed by at least two major London dailies for its alleged historical inaccuracies. The Express complained that "the movie's baddies are, as usual, the treacherous, cowardly, evil, sadistic Brits." Another, the prestigious Times, says the film is "a 160-minute polemic against the British."

"The Patriot," directed by Roland Emmerich of "Independence Day" fame, tells the story of Benjamin Martin (Gibson), a peaceful South Carolina farmer and hero of the French and Indian War who takes up arms against the British when one of his sons is killed, execution-style, and another is dragged away to be hanged.

The movie also has a sneeringly evil British colonel, played in the Alan Rickman "Die Hard" mold by British newcomer Jason Isaacs.

The British papers seem most upset about the liberties screenwriter Robert Rodat ("Saving Private Ryan") took with the character of Martin, who is loosely based on real-life Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, who was known as the Swamp Fox.

"When the movie's historians discovered that in real life Marion raped his slaves and hunted Red Indians for sport, they changed his name to Benjamin Martin," said the Express.

The Times has also charged that Isaacs' sadistic officer is partially based on English soldier Banastre Tarleton, who in real life, says the paper, "was a dashing officer loved by his soldiers. He was no bloodthirsty villain."

The Express called for a boycott of the film, saying its readers should "hurt the film makers where it hurts them the most - not in their (clearly nonexistent) consciences, but in their wallets."

Dennis Higgins, a spokesman for "The Patriot's" distributor, Sony Pictures, responded that "this isn't a history textbook. It's a movie that's meant to entertain. We love those Brits, but maybe they're still smarting from the outcome of that war."

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