Flipping around cable, I land on 1993's Carlito's Way and check in for a few scenes of a lurid, pulpy, and very Brian De Palma movie that's arguably like Scarface with an interior life. And as Al Pacino struts and chews his way through another role with another weird accent that ultimately leaves him sounding exactly like Al Pacino, I'm thinking, there are some bad aspects to this film, but it was a success, or at least wasn't a complete failure. But every actor, especially the Accomplished ones, make at least one clinker or stinker, lay an egg, drop a bomb. So what was Al Pacino's Worst Movie Ever?
Sure, he's one of America's greatest actors, nominated for a bucketload of awards; he even won an Oscar™ once. OK, yeah, it was for Scent of a Woman, but it's an Oscar—that's all that counts! Besides, they owed him for the The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II and Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico. He has been part of at least two interesting and informative inside-acting documentaries (Wilde Salomé and Looking for Richard), which show his love for the craft and prove that he's not just a weirdo who acts like Al Pacino all the time—he can do Shakespeare, too.
He was in fucking The Godfather, for fuck's sake, and Dog Day Afternoon—did I mention those already? Plus a whole bunch of stuff on Home Box (he played both Phil Spector and Dr. Kevorkian), not to mention Glengarry Glen Ross, Donnie Brasco, and the mega-annoyingly punctuated ...And Justice for All., the legal drama that gave America the classic comedy crutch You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! Yes, the mark of Greatness! Al Pacino is widely imitated by comedians, and it looks like he wears a wig or at least dyes his hair with Magic Markers, and he will not stop until he is dead or shortly thereafter.
Worst! When he's a top-biller and can be largely blamed for the movie's worst-ness? Worst! Where he, as the Star, turned in a crap performance? When the film didn't make money, or lost a pile, which means nobody liked it—nobody expressed their approval of the movie through the act of buying a ticket? Further confirmed by zero "Cult Movie" or so-called "Guilty Pleasure" reevaluations? Is 1996's City Hall Al Pacino's Worst Movie? According to IMDb, which is a reasonable source for box-office info, that one apparently didn't really make back its budget, but he wasn't tremendously terrible in that, given that era of his career. Not Worst enough. Two for the Money? S1m0ne? The Godfather: Part III? The misbegotten tour de homophobia of Cruising? No, no, no, and no. By the metrics I just made up, Al Pacino's Worst Movie Ever is Revolution, directed by Hugh Hudson and released in the year nineteen hundred and eighty-five. Two hours and six minutes of antique torture set during the Revolutionary War, bleh!
A stirring chronicle of America's 18th century struggle for independence set in the chaotic, emotionally charged days of the Revolutionary War. —Amazon dot com, who got my $9.99.
The film opens exactly like Star Wars, only with Ye Olde type and crappier, evil, Classical-style music as we read a grim explanation of the War about to entertain us. Then, through a dreary, drizzly rain, we view Al Pacino as Tom Dobb, sailing to New York in a boat with his young son, Ned.
There's some narration, in a husky voice that is probably supposed to convey a humble origin and lack of formal education.
We was bringin' furs down the rivvuh.
You could hear the city a mile off.
If you switch "furs" for "dope," this could be any one of a number of Al Pacino movies.
Raspy low tones.
You can hear the periods a mile off.
Tom Dobbs is just a schmo coming into town with his kid trying to trade some furs he trapped, but no, a Revolutionary Mob—which has established itself as such by chanting "No more king! Liberty or Death!" and features the pop singer Annie Lennox as a particularly vocal critic of King George—commandeers his boat in exchange for a cheque, because the Army needs it to drive the British out of Brooklyn. Some things never change.
He is directed to take his scrip-payment for the craft to "Joe McConnahay, the Sugar King," who we discover is a piece-of-shit War Profiteer, and of course we meet his privileged daughter, Daisy, played by our costar, Nastassja Kinski, who is on the receiving end of much soap-opera-y expository dialogue to the effect of "What in blazes are you doing here, Miss McConnahay? This is no place for you! Go home to your mother and sisters!"
After reading a copy of the Declaration of Independence that's been slapped into her hand, she heads for the battle, and after assisting with the application of a tourniquet fashioned outta some American Flag-looking fabric, she assists a doctor in performing a classic no-anesthetic Battlefield Amputation, and then wanders off to find the recently dragooned Al Pacino and son resting in a battlefield after the fight. Recognizing Tom as the guy with the boat, she concludes, "You fought for our cause. You fought for our Freedom," and officially falls in Love. Then she goes and yells at her dad for being all Halliburton-y and stuff, after we have been reminded that he is her father and she is his daughter via more soap-opera speak.
Kinski, who on this movie's poster was presented a little bit like the messy-haired girl from Broadway's Les Misérables, voices Daisy with pretty much her normal light-German accent, while the sisters McConnahay, along with their mom (played perfectly well by Joan Plowright), are full-on English Tories with proper English voices, which might explain why all the characters are constantly reminding each other that Daisy is a member of the McConnahay family, and, I mean, I mighta missed it, but I kept waiting for somebody to explain how she was adopted—you know, like Tom Hagen in The Godfather? When you are involuntarily script-doctoring only 20 minutes into the movie, you are not buying in to the movie, you are not enjoying the movie, you are enduring the movie. Anyway.
There are more battles, and I didn't check the credits for this, but it's possible Revolutionary War-era sound equipment was used to capture the dialogue while Dolby Digital was employed for the giant Revolution-ary goddamn musical score, which is is louder than the cannons and guns, and everything else is still louder than the fucking dialogue. You just want to yell at everybody to speak the fuck up: C'mon, people saying words, help with the movie!
So Tom has had it with being Enlisted and wants to get a job at the rope factory (not a euphemism), and his kid joins a street gang, like Leonardo DiCaprio will someday in Gangs of New York. Daisy's mom tries to get her dopey daughters married to some disgusting English horndogs in red coats and powdered wigs. Other English occupiers forcibly volunteer Tom for a gig as human bait in a fox hunt for other decadent Britishers, featuring a ridiculously nasal Redcoat who beheads an effigy of "Georgie Washington" and declares, "So ends the American dream, eh wot? Come on, tally ho!" He really says that shit.
Meanwhile, War is bad! Tom's stupid kid gets drafted again, only this time by the English, as a drummer boy, and there's attempted British buggery and brutal era-appropriate punishment for resistance inflicted upon young Ned by the Redcoats, and he is likely to die, and the fucking music swells up like some freak-ass science-fiction shit, like from a movie with dinosaurs in it or maybe the original Planet of the Apes, all to wake you up, maybe, from all the mumbling, though it only leads to ... more and longer mumbling!
Anyway, Al Pacino kills some Iroquois, which puts him over nicely with the Huron, who hate the Anglais, so they help him with his sick boy, and this sets up a critical Acting Moment, as Tom frets over his suffering boy and loves him with every molecule of Pacino. Al Pacino is Pacino-ing so hard, tremulously spitting out backstory to young Ned about the terrible fortunes of the Dobb clan and what remains, and here his emoting reaches the height of incoherence—rivaling anything every belched up dramaturgically by Sylvester Stallone at his Ramboniest—as Dobb, smushed up against the side of his suffering son's face, possibly IRL rubbing a bald patch into the side of the poor kid-actor's head (no way to confirm, since this flick was made before "blooper" clips became popular), slow-jam headbutting his rustic fatherly love into the lad's fevered skull, telling the boy they will each have a future, with babies, if only the son will come through and live. Maybe this performance is inspired by the realization that he's carrying an entire movie—an entire War—on his actorly shoulders, and he's determined to muscle this out. Or, hey, maybe he's doing a Brooklyn accent from the '40s?
Just when you think this movie won't end, it doesn't end. More fighting, more noise, more and more historically grubby-accurate people running around yelling, more English-drummer-boy subplot with Donald Sutherland (replete with historically accurate giant hairy facial mole) as the Crown's brutally efficient Sgt. Major Peasey, sporting his own syrupy, gargle-y, Scots-sounding drawl. Everybody in this movie except for Nastassja Kinski and the whiny British Captain dude are trying to rock some sort of Scottish mouth sound, as if the Scots invented incoherency. This is Wartime, man: Forget about trying to find a good choice.
SPOILER ALERT: The British lose the war. At this point, Pacino's Tom is some sort of Scout, which is way cooler than being a conscript, and he's rocking full mid-'80s Pacino hair (back then it was brown) along with a headband and pendant necklace. Earlier, I was comparing the expository dialogue to daytime soap operas, but it degenerates further, into borderline grade-school-pageantry exclamations. Young Ned has grown up a bit, and he's in Philadelphia, where he wanders into a room and meets a young man tidying up the room where Congress is to meet.
YOUNG MAN IN POWDERED WIG: "The British, they made a terrible mess of the place. Congress can't meet unless I set things aright."
NED: "Congress. I heard they fight a lot."
ME, IN MY BRAIN: "ARE YOU KIDDING ME."
POWDERED WIG [AS NED EXAMINES MODEL OF SUN, EARTH, AND MOON THAT JUST HAPPENS TO BE IN CONGRESS]: Mister Rittenhouse made it. This is the earth, and that's the moon. See? See how the planets turn? Each makes its own revolution 'round the sun. Mister Jefferson says that's the idea of America: a revolution, a new turn.
ME: [HUMMING SOUND.]
Fuck this movie. It ends. Al Pacino tries to sell the picture one more time, to Ned: "Tell 'em how we fought. Tell 'em how far we come." Then he narrates more stuff about Why We Fight: "We stand together. Like brothers and sisters. And we make for ourselves. We make a place. where our babies can sleep safe through the night."
This movie stinks because of actors saying words. Al Pacino is the Star Actor. War is Hell, and Revolution is worse. The Major Motion Picture Revolution is Al Pacino's WORST MOVIE EVER.
Dialect Coach, Robert Easton.
Blowsy Overblown Music by the National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Annoying Flute Theme by James Galway.
"Music all Digitally recorded at the Music Centre Wembley, England," which had to have been a big deal in 1985, but I still contend the words the actors spoke were pressed onto a wax cylinder via the beak of a prehistoric bird.
Sound re-recorded at Pinewood Studios in Dolby Stereo®, so fuck them, too.
You don't have to adjust for inflation or anything to understand the crap-magnitude of these box-office figures: a budget estimated at $28 million, an opening weekend of $52,755 (December 29, 1985); and a gross of anywhere from IMDB's estimate of $184,570 to a Box Office Mojo listing of $358,574 "lifetime."
Joe MacLeod enjoys television, movies, and America. He tweets. This series is likely to reoccur.
Worst Movie Ever was brought to me by Amazon Prime. I mean, they aren't, like, a Sponsor or anything, but if somebody there is willing to kick me back the $9.99 I dropped on this piece of crap, maybe we can work something out. Thank you. THE END, again.