Remembering the Seagal Oddity The Patriot (1998)

Plot: A rural Montana community is threatened when the FBI tries to arrest members of a radical militia group. The militia retaliates by releasing a killer virus into the air, sickening most of the local residents — but not Dr. Wesley McClaren (Steven Seagal) or his daughter, Holly (Camilla Belle). It seems that Holly is immune to the virus. As McClaren races to find a cure, militia leader Floyd Chisolm (Gailard Sartain) attempts to kidnap Holly so that his group can make an antitoxin.

The Patriot is one of Steven Seagal’s lesser talked about movies… probably because it isn’t very good. I mean it isn’t a terrible film it’s just that I wouldn’t even describe it as an action flick as there are only about 2 minor action scenes in the movie.

Seagal attempts to show some acting chops making his character Dr. Wesley McClaren one of his most likeable to date. He isn’t a bullying asshole for once but he is of course ex-CIA and his particular set of skills come in handy when a local militia leader called Floyd (Gailard Sartain) poisons a small town in Montana just to make a point.

This is arguably Seagal’s most talky film as he tries to investigate the disease and how to find a cure and he only bitch slaps a couple of people throughout the entire runtime.

It’s really rather dull and feels like a TV movie with a few swear words thrown in to try and spice things up. Seagal was always good at stabbing bad guys in the head however, and The Patriot is no different guaranteeing a virus is the least of Floyd’s problems. To show Seagal is a friend of the Earth he does cuddle a small pony at the end which will melt even the hardest of hearts…

The movie spends a lot of time focussing on the relationship between Wesley and his daughter (Camilla Belle) so we get a little bit of characterization but it’s just pretty boring and not a film I watch often.

I always enjoy L.Q. Jones who plays Wesley’s kindly friend Frank… uh oh, he’s kindly and his name is Frank? He will not live to see the end credits. Why do old people called Frank always get killed in these movies?

The only funny moment is when someone is driving out of the town after everyone has been infected and a sign shows a lake with people fishing stating “we hope you caught something” – Oh how I laughed.

Despite feeling like a TV movie, The Patriot looks beautiful with some stunning vistas to help give off a modern Western vibe and there are some nice shots of Seagal and friends riding on horseback across the country. Interestingly enough this is based on the novel called “The Last Canadian” which was more sci-fi than the movie.

Another tidbit I found while scouring IMDB is that “this was the first film that the financing had been solely raised by Seagal/Nasso Productions after they split from Seagal’s regular studio Warner Bros. Seagal/Nasso had gained funding for a handful of pics, most of which were to star Seagal, but the deal fell through when the relationship between Seagal and producing partner Julius Nasso collapsed. Other projects that were lined up for Seagal included ‘Blood on the Moon”, where he was to play a man hunting the modern-day pirates who murdered his family, and “Black Top” where he was to play a high-end car thief.”

Overall, The Patriot was the beginning of the end of Seagal’s theatrical career as it went straight to video in most countries and ended up being quickly forgotten about by most. It has its moments and as I said it looks great but it lacks action and is ultimately a rather dull tale.