Friday, April 16, 2010


A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack.

Bear with any inconsistencies here as I am attempting a review written via email on my phone... so it's all typed out with my two little thumbs. Also, I'm not exactly sure how to post anymore than one photo with each blog entry, so there will probably just be a poster I grabbed off my tiny web browser.

So I just got out of the world premiere (!I'm feckin special!) of Neil Marshall's new film Centurion. As with most of the films showing at Actionfest (, I did not know much about this going in. Shit, I didn't even know it was about Roman soldiers specifically, but we can probably attribute that to ignorance or mental laziness on my part. I mean, it is called Centurion afterall.
It's a story that felt like it could have taken place during any war with the trapped behind enemy lines theme, but what made Centurion different was not so much the soldiers themselves, but the enemy they were dealing with.

The Picts.

Not really being up on my history, I don't know much about this particular group of people, but they are essentially barbarians... complete with furs and face paint and scary looking axes to bury in your fuckin neck.

The standout Pict is a mute tracker played by Olga Kurylenko. She literally has zero lines in the film, but is nasty in her multiple action sequences.

The acting is what it is. I really liked Dominic West in The Wire, and I would have liked to have seen him play a larger role than he did here. Michael Fassbender is the star of the show here, and I think he is most convincing in role in moments of anguish... in particular the scene that opens the film with Fassbender fleeing through a stark white snowy field, hands bound, and a gash across his chest. He stumbles and gasps for breath and looks genuinely panicked without saying anything at all. (this scene has Fassbender briefly narrating to set up the story actually.

Other than the standouts, what you get are characters that are fine for what they are but who you will most likely never remember the name of. The overriding characteristics in Centurion aren't a man's future plans (although this is shoehorned into the story fairly early on) but rather if he got stabbed in the dick, slashed in the neck, or devoured in some other way.

Yes, Marshall's film is a wet one. He has some really nice moments, some amazing aerial photography of some incredible and harsh looking environment, but ultimately what you will take from the film is the violence. Beheadings and slashes and stabs and pokes and slams and pierced and crunches and turtles and....
Does he rely on the gore a bit too much? Perhaps. The story honestly did not feel all that unique by the time the credits rolled, but the brutality lingers on.

Personally I've found Marshall's previous films a mixed bag. Well, the two I have seen at least. I loved Dog Soldiers and its gore and claustrophobic action. But I ended up not really liking The Descent because of some turns the story took as it played out.

Centurion had elements of both. It took me awhile to warm up to the Magnificent Seven Dirty Dozen Inglorious BastArds style group of soldiers, but their being chased by these barbarians with a vendetta was interesting and tense. But I didn't like that the soldiers outside of Fassbender really had no individuality and were just meat shields, and I did not like some plot elements added in as the story evolved.

The film looks fantastic, and the fireball scene that you can see in the trailer may be worth the price of admission. But the movie does slow down quite a bit in the third act before the finale(s) and doesn't seem to know exactly how and when to end.

Overall though I enjoyed it. For the genre I thought it was definitely solid. It doesn't get bogged down in the ancient politics and shit that always fly over my head anyway, and really gets right to the goods like a good genre film should.

Score: 7 / 10

No comments: