One of two tragically underrated Westerns produced in the mid-'90s (the other being 1994's Wyatt Earp), this grand, sweeping adventure boasts taut direction from Walter Hill and several great performances from its male leads. While a naïve soldier well played by a then-unknown Matt Damon is ostensibly the main character here, the real heart and soul of the film is Charles Gatewood, a soldier sympathetic with his enemy nearly to the point of sedition and played with mute, feral feverishness by Jason Patric. Superlative performances are also delivered by Gene Hackman as a morally conflicted general, Robert Duvall as an uneducated scout, and particularly Wes Studi as the title character, repeating his intense, furious supporting work in the previous year's The Last of the Mohicans (1992). The sad outcome of the Native Americans' war against the U.S. Army is well known, but the film's script by John Milius focuses on key events and battle strategy -- predictably, given the screenwriter's martial interests -- making the film more textbook history lesson than emotional journey. For those seeking another Dances with Wolves (1990), the end result is sure to be disappointing, but for those seeking a more dispassionate, realistic handling of Western lore, the film is ultimately a satisfying one. The lack of audience interest in Geronimo: An American Legend may be at least partially explained by the competing made-for-TV movie Geronimo (1993), which was released the same year, necessitating a last-minute title change for this version.
by Karl Williams review