”The Patriot” may have been written by ”Saving Private Ryan”’s Robert Rodat, and it may boast a few grisly battle scenes, but don’t call this American Revolution flick ”Saving Johnny Tremain.” ”It’s really a love story between a father and son,” says Aussie newcomer Heath Ledger, who plays Gibson’s son. And lest you think that Sony’s $80 million summer tent pole is a treacly weeper, consider that it’s also the product of Emmerich and producing partner Dean Devlin – two guys who know how to crank out an Event Movie, for better (”Independence Day”) and worse (”Godzilla”).
The good news is ”Patriot” has more in common with ”ID4” – and not just because it’s a jingoistic tale of American resolve. Gibson plays a French and Indian War hero who just wants to raise his family in peace. That is, until his son enlists and is captured, forcing Gibson to snap into ”Mad Max” mode to kick redcoat butt. ”You can draw comparisons to other characters Mel’s played,” says Emmerich, ”but this one is a lot more layered because he’s someone who’s constantly trying to run away from what he has to do.” For the record, Gibson pocketed $25 million, raising the A-list Hollywood stakes. But, insists Emmerich, ”I think he’s worth every dollar.”