When I first saw the theatrical version of Revolution on VHS I considered it an interesting failure. It had a promising premise, debunking the patriotic mythology of the American Revolution by portraying an ordinary man who gets drawn into the war largely against his will and sees the revolutionaries as little better than the British, if not worse, in the way they treat common people. Intellectually I appreciated the casting of Al Pacino as the hero (and Hudson informs us on the DVD that Stallone wanted the part!) because his way of speaking should have signified "common" compared to the more refined accents of the era. I also acknowledged that Pacino did try to alter his voice; he says now that Tom Dobb's was the most researched accent he ever attempted. But despite what he does, his voice is still somehow jarringly alien to the era, though that may be due to the dialogue he utters (e.g., "Got eats?") rather than how he utters it.
It's love at first sight for Nastassia Kinski when her gaze falls on Al Pacino, but after nearly 25 years I still don't really know why.
The lamest narrative device you can possibly use in cinema is first-person present-tense narration. Some people are turned off by narration in general, whether by a character in the story of an omniscient observer. But when a writer composes a narrative track that supposedly relates what characters are thinking at that moment, it's really a confession that the writer or actor has failed to convey that by the usual means of dialogue, or that the director has failed to capture what the writer and actor were trying to convey. First-person present-tense is a crutch that allows creative people to abdicate the responsibility of storytelling. It's a hallmark of bad writing in comic books and genre novels, and in cinema David Lynch's Dune (which only follows Frank Herbert's unfortunate precedent) and Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line are cautionary tales of the disastrous effect this style of narration can have.
Revolution Revisited makes Dune and Thin Red Line sound as if they were scripted by James Joyce. Presumably composed by Hudson and/or Pacino, the new first-person present-tense narration for Tom Dobb is an injustice to Robert Dillon. It's one thing to have to bear the stigma of writing the original Revolution, and another altogether to be presumed to have authored lines that sound like they belong in The Conqueror. According to Hudson, they did at one point consider having Dobb's son narrate the film in past tense, but ditched that notion. With unwitting irony, Hudson and Pacino share the thought that Revolution might have made a good silent film. Hearing the new dialogue makes you wish they'd been more daring. Their concept seems to be that Tom Dobb should express in his head the instinctual, inchoate poetry of an illiterate yet soulful man. Here is a sample of the results:
Our life will turn in many a strange direction. Now, coming on a boat of my own to trade my trappings of fur and skins, to go off on a boat of war to fight for a word they name Liberty, of which I am unknowing, never having had it in my own life, wondering of its need.
More succinctly, Dobb ponders the Kinski's character persistent yet unmotivated interest in him: "She causes an uncomfort to me." This has a devastating effect on an already unsound picture, rendering it ridiculous when it had only been meaningless before. Hudson and Pacino have pushed a merely forgotten failure toward the ranks of the worst films ever made.
But before I completely condemn the film it's only fair to note that the DVD reveals what VHS conceals: Revolution is often a beautiful movie.
But maybe the trailer, uploaded to YouTube by GoldcrestFilms, will convince you otherwise.