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THE ALAMO (PG-13) (2004)

Touchstone Pictures/Imagine Entertainment

Official Site

Director: John Lee Hancock

Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Mark Johnson

Written by: Leslie Bohem, Stephen Gaghan, John Lee Hancock

Cast: Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson, Emilio Echevarria

Rating:

After a four month theatrical delay and a troubled pre- and post-production, the new movie based on the battle of the Alamo finally debuts in cinemas this week. Yet another film based on the historic battle where less than 200 men, mostly Texas settlers, valiantly tried and failed to defend the mission-turned-military outpost, and hold General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s forces at bay. The battle eventually leads to the Mexican army’s defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto, making Texas its own republic and eventually part of the United States.

The original director for this project was set to be Ron Howard, who stepped down from that position for reasons I’m not sure of, but retained a producer credit. Howard’s cast was set to include Russell Crowe as Sam Houston, Ethan Hawke as William Barrett Travis, and Viggo Mortensen as Jim Bowie. After Howard left the director’s seat, Disney gave the job to John Lee Hancock, fresh off the 2002 hit, The Rookie.

Hancock’s movie was originally set for theatrical release in December of last year. That never occurred, again for reasons I’m not totally sure of—just bits and pieces about editing for historical accuracy, and a good deal of footage was cut to produce the 137-minute film. Watching the movie closely, one might be able to tell the movie is missing scenes due to the disjointed editing and thin subplots.

This film features the young, straight-laced soldier Travis (Wilson) taking over command of the Alamo along with Jim Bowie (Patric) and his incredibly large knife. The legendary Davy Crockett (Thorton) shows up, unaware that Santa Anna’s army is just about to be on their doorstep, and he’s unwittingly thrown into the fire. Thorton’s Crockett is definitely different, a real, flesh-and-blood person, who’s unable to live up to the fantastic tales about his life. Bowie, as played by Patric, is a weary drunkard about to succumb to his lifestyle and illness, haunted by images of his wife. The subplot with Bowie and his wife is vague, yet keeps popping up here and there, resulting in a very ineffective character. Wilson, in probably his second feature, gives a bland and dull performance as William Barrett Travis, which does not match the intensity or emotion of Alec Baldwin’s portrayal in the 1987 television movie, The Alamo: Thirteen Days To Glory.

There’s also the horribly ruthless, evil, psychotic, sociopathic, cowardly, and merciless Santa Anna (Echevarria). Echevarria brings little to the role other than playing a stock lunatic whom the audience can despise. Sam Houston (native Texan, Quaid) refused to partake in sending aid to the Alamo in fear that it would be the end of the Texas army and the dream of independence. Instead, Houston waits for “The Napoleon Of The West” to make a mistake and then strike. Quaid’s Houston is another poorly developed character who drinks most of the time and acts really macho.

I got a chance to see John Lee Hancock talk about this film at an Austin Film Festival Meet and Greet in 2002, and I really felt that this flick had potential with Hancock at the helm. Something happened between December 2003 and April 2004 that hurt the movie. The battles and characters prove unaffecting. Until Hollywood decides to attempt once again to adapt the near-legendary Texas battle to celluloid, I’ll still consider Thirteen Days To Glory the definitive version, historical accuracy or not. Plus, Raul Julia as Santa Anna beats Echevarria any day.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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