Saturday, February 12, 2011

CENTURION - A Blood & Gore Fest

CENTURION (sword-and-sandal thriller)
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke, David Morrissey, Imogen Poots, Axelle Carolyn, Riz Ahmed, Dave Legeno and Ulrich Thomsen
Director: Neil Marshall
Screenplay: Neil Marshall
Time: 97 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Michael Fassbender (right) fleeing the Picts in CENTURION

PREAMBLE: Centurion had a limited release in the US in August 2010 - and performed dismally at the US B-O, grossing less than US$1 million. Elsewhere, it did better and I can only guess that its excessive violence and gore has something to do with it.

Indeed, the movie is not for the squeamish. Director Neil Marshall seems to take pleasure in splashing blood, guts and limbs all over the screen in this 'flight epic' of a movie. It's level of graphic violence is like that of TV series Spartacus: Blood And Sand - sans the sex and nudity.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Set in AD117, Centurion is Marshall's rendition of the fate of Rome's Ninth Legion which supposedly 'vanished' after being sent to conquer the Picts of Scotland. However, the title character is Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), who, at the start of the movie, manages to escape from a tribe of Picts and join the Ninth led by the lusty General Virilus (Dominic West of TV's The Wire).

As luck would have it, Virilus is ordered by the Governor to march against the Picts - aided by a female Pict scout and guide named Etain (Olga Kurylenko, pic, right). However, Virilus and his men are not prepared for the treachery and betrayal that lie ahead - and the hunters soon become the hunted, chased relentlessly by the Picts all over the mountains of scenic Scotland.

HITS & MISSES: Marshall keeps the pace so fast (and bloody) that there is little time for character development, especially of the secondary roles which seem interesting. The only time the pace slackens a bit is when the fugitive Romans arrive at the home of the witch Arianne (Imogen Poots, pictured left) and a love story almost develops. This quasi-romance, which would have provided a softer approach and please female audiences, is quickly abandoned in the third act.

Still, the cast, led by Fassbender, are solid. Fassbender has us rooting for him throughout, while West seems to wallow in the brawler role with lines like, "When are they going to learn not to f**k with the Ninth?". Bond star Kurylenko plays a mute here but her vixen-like Etiane is suitable enigmatic and energetic, especially with her trademark spear. Poots' Arianne, perhaps, is the role that has the most potential but it is squandered by Marshall.

Technically, the movie is top class and the photography, especially of the Scottish landscape, is breathtaking and idyllic.

THE LOWDOWN: For fans of Spartacus and Rome series, and those who don't mind blood and guts splashed the screen.


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