You gotta give Mel Gibson what he deserves—a Hall of Shame award for having the temerity to spend $25 million dollars to buy five Oscars (including best makeup!) for a movie, thrice at the box office, only collecting a domestic total of $70 million, the same amount spent to make his bloody epic poem, one more progressively gruesome and childish to sit through as the minutes turn into almost three hours. Braveheart looks like it was no picnic to make, and, for all but his beer-guzzling, bloodthirsty compadres, it’s not a whole lot of fun to watch. It’s a militia instruction manual—directed by Rambo of Scots. The movie’s structure has Spartacus branded all over it. On more than one occasion we’re reminded of Kirk Douglas updated to Sylvester Stallone: when shouting from atop his horse, Gibson sounds like him, packing the same fake butch frenzy. Borrowing the hair from the prairie rat in The Road Warrior and war paint from Rambo, something phooey is being dispatched—a Village People’s “Macho Man” gung ho. A more discriminating director, even if claiming historical precedent, would scale back the cheap plugs, steals and infantilism. Yet the painted bod is a new criterion for barbarous sensuality—he’s a primer for a Stallone course about T.E. Lawrence as warrior of darkness. Repulsive, yet considering the currency for carnage, it’s partly what the Oscar wins represent. Lifting the “let my people go” from Spartacus, appropriating the gallantry of El Cid, foisting itself off as a darkened, humorless Lion in Winter, Randall Wallace’s script concocts scenarios more fitting a rigger than legendary liberator: the ladies disrobe quickly, a ghostly wife relieves martyrdom’s pain, an unwilling Judas becomes Braveheart’s champion. Wallace manages to work in “fock,” the original Scottish spelling and pronunciation of the now ubiquitous four-letter expletive. One problem ignored: though the Scots were probably the first to use the slang, it wasn’t in use until the 15th Century. Another problem: GLAADers were up in armed purses again over Gibson’s homophobia, this time protesting the treatment of Edward I’s son Edward II. They’re onto something: Gibson has stereotypic views on gays—he’s the kind of Roman Catholic who notices less the predatory priests ogling the alter boys than the flamers kneeling in the pews—and he’s brought his prejudices to Eddie 2, played by an actor who could be Rachel Ward’s swishy brother. Would Edward II have betrayed his arranged-for bride (wearing a headdress, under the crown, looking like white cerebra) at the very point of taking wedding vows? In front of his father? Absurd. Very clumsily, Gibson gets swept away by sadomasochism: the Christ-like torture sequence is obligatory Inquisition—complete with its own combo of Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price—as precursor to the later Passion of the Christ. The reactions of the extras are mood-altering with too many “Look, Ma, I’m in this here movie” grins. What angers many about Gibson’s choices of movies is he so frequently retreats from humanity, likely afraid of losing his kinship with his buddies in the audience. Gibson’s popularity among these men is based on his comic lunacy and the sport in a not very subliminal communal desideratum. Is there any other box office idol more in love with his own bare ass as pitch for the virtues of sodomy? He solicits these feelings, he knows it, and his public denials are disguised and hypocritical conceit. Having whored his way to those Oscars, voters didn’t take long into their gullibility to recognize the smell of Bravefart

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2005 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.