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REVIEWS OF REVENANT & MAN IN THE WILDERNESS

year: 2016
In MAN IN THE WILDERNESS, a 1971 Western, or, for that gritty, no-nonsense, ultra-realistic period, more of an anti-Western... far more rough around the edges compared to the particularly cozy elements of older, quieter, more John Ford/John Wayne patriotic sense-of-Americana ventures... a lot of things happen that you will see in a 2015 time-period melodrama based on a true story of Frontiersman/Trapper Hugh Glass that in THE REVENANT, starring the Golden Globe winner Leonardo DiCarpio, is making waves for possibly garnering his first possible Oscar victory (and since this was originally written, DiCaprio won the Oscar he's wanted for decades)...

Meanwhile, back in the early-seventies, Richard Harris (who, for Millennial knowledge, was the original Dumbledore in the first two HARRY POTTER flicks), and under primal direction of VANISHING POINT auteur Richard C. Sarafian, without having to reach for a Golden Statue, naturally played a character based on Hugh Glass named Zachary Bass: while not the leader of a group of eclectic fur trappers, knows his way around the territory better than anyone and, wandering the woodsy locale, he comes across something that's even more Native than Indians: That being a ferocious bear, leading to an attack that renders Bass unable to move and basically, his group, led by a cold-hearted, world-weary quiet type in John Huston's Captain Henry (his men carrying a miniature arc on a long journey to find the river necessary to sustain their trade) leaves his once-important number-one man behind to die, presuming he's more than halfway to the Pearly Gates already.

year: 1971
Much of WILDERNESS, which is a pretty good survival tale lacking a few things we'll bring up later, has our hero slowly healing, starting out hardly able to move, kind of a physical evolutionary process while hallucinating glimpses of his "normal" past life, eventually catching his own food by hunting various animals and, along the way there's an extremely subtle undercurrent of vengeance that, in THE REVENANT,  is taken up a few notches in that John Huston's subliminal heavy is replaced by a one-dimensionally evil, beyond-racist, horrendously inhumane and of course, proudly Christian villain in Tom Hardy's John Fitzgerald, who, with a scalped head of his own, has a literally deep-rooted reason to despise Native Americans while DiCaprio's Hugh Glass, after being mauled (and practically raped via CGI) by a bear, is also left for dead... even deader than dead... added to which Hardy's John kills Hugh's half-Indian son, making this a bonafide revenge story that... unlike the original WILDERNESS written by Jack DeWitt... uses, along with intense ultra-violence, the (at this point) extremely cliche "Native American wisdom beats any thoughts of banal white men" as a key element for Hugh's overall mind-over-matter philosophy to survive.

Ultra Evil Hardy
In WILDERNESS, British actor Richard Harris does a fine job in his recovery and instinctual measures to remain alive... But then again, he's good in anything. Leo, on the other hand, who, like cinema partner Martin Scorsese, really wants to win an Oscar (Martin, of course, already won his) after being famously "snubbed" for TITANIC where he basically played a version of... Leonardo DiCaprio...

Harris surviving
Here his performance has moments where you will, in fact, forget he's a sex symbol who has tried everything possible to rid that typecast: in this day and age, handsome leading men yearn to be your typical, mundane character-actors. Well he couldn't look worse, and that's the entire purpose: Hugh is a survivalist surviving as opposed to just one of the guys thrust into a dire situation, who Hardy's grouchy and pretentious villain wishes he could be, and perhaps another of many reasons he didn't want the more genuinely knowledgeable "idealist" around. Also added to THE REVENANT, which fails to call itself a remake even though it has more in common (historic or otherwise) than any remake/reboots that admit what they are up front, there's a frontier SAVING PRIVATE RYAN style opening battle, making the bear attack seem like a petting zoo in comparison.

Cool poster
And so, tying both movies together, WILDERNESS is an above-average 1970's Anti-Western that remains an entertaining ride throughout as REVENANT, while having some worthy moments, can be downright dull and boring despite the gorgeous locations and apt direction; the camera remaining low to make the otherwise obsolete humans, compared to immense trees watching like impartial guardians, seem an equal part of the grungy setting.

If this is in fact DiCaprio's year for that much-coveted Oscar, so he and partner Martin Scorsese can knight each other in ecstasy (it's probably happening right now, as this is being written!)... And disregarding the fact that Harris wasn't nominated in 1971, when there were less Best Picture flicks nominated and a much higher league of competition... Well, Leo does a good enough turn despite the fact any talented actor... like, say, an Alpha Male Joel Edgerton or Josh Brolin type, or, for instance, Tom Hardy himself could have played this particular role, relying on plenty of groans, moans and resilient reactions to spontaneous obstacles coming out of the woodwork while suffering loads of pain without a pill in sight: yet there's just not enough happening to make this as solidly entertaining a film as it should have/could have been for those who didn't know, and for those (like most people, especially young girls) who can care less it's been done already, many moons ago.

Harris Double Feature
RATINGS:
THE REVENANT: **1/2
MAN IN THE WILDERNESS: ***
TRIVIA: This Double-Review has been re-blogged since tonight was the Oscars, and Leo won his Golden Statue, and so did Alejandro González Iñárritu for Best Director, but the film lost for Best Picture, which is always an indication of movie-politics: exposing priests raping kids in the Best Picture winner, SPOTLIGHT, is more important than the (at this point, dated issue of the) inhumane treatment of Native Americans; and also proof that REVENANT simply isn't that good a movie • And what's in a name? Well both films, the one starring Richard Harris and Leo's triumph, are based on the life of frontiersman/trapper Hugh Glass, although for some reason the original Hugh's name is changed to Zack Bass, but what makes this particular vehicle, in this reviewer's opinion, a downright remake is how similar both films are in the screenplay and situations within the script itself, not just the historic story in which both are based. For example, anyone can make a film about Abe Lincoln, but if a movie, three decades later, centered on the 16th President trying to get enough votes to free the slaves, then, well... there should be some copyright issues • And a special thanks to JB, the Cult Film Freak phantom editor and personal cinematic Obi-Wan, for sending the Richard Harris double-feature DVD a week before THE REVENENT hit theaters, and without explanation, said to watch WILDERNESS before THE DEADLY TRACKERS, which will be reviewed soon.
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