Monday, November 29, 2010

Centurion




Like Rian Johnson, Neil Marshall is a director who I respond to primarily because he has apparently dedicated his career to making the types of movies I like to watch. Dog Soldiers is a scrappy little film, one of the few to use the Raimi/Jackson Splatterpunk tradition without simply aping it. The Descent is one of the best, smartest, most squirm enducing horror films of the previous decade. And Doomsday is Grindhouse for those raised on the films of John Carpenter and Walter Hill instead of the 42nd Street product. He simply has yet to make a film I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

So Given the festival buzz it got, I was somewhat surprised that I never got a chance to see Centurion in a theater. Not only that but The DVD release was so quiet that I didn’t even know the movie was out until I literally stumbled upon it at Borders as I was looking for something to use a ten dollar coupon on.

If I was surprised by Centurion’s handling before viewing it, I’m down right baffled now. Centurion is simply put, a blast, a good ole fashioned slice of B movie heaven. It delivers the requisite thrills and chills, with a keen and unique visual sensibility and an old fashioned sense of story. All while taking exquisite advantage of the severe beauty of the natural surroundings, getting its all out of its charismatic cast, and delivering some fantastically tense set pieces and some brutal action. As well as a few of the most roundly unexpected Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid references I’ve ever seen.

Centurion tells the story of the fabled Ninth Legion. The legendary group of Roman Soldiers who one day marched into Northern Britain and never marched the fuck out.

Centurion follows the few survivors’ of the massacre as they’re hunted by a group of vengeful and fucking crazy Pict warriors across the merciless and harshly beautiful landscape of Northern Britain. The cast headed by the ever enjoyable Michael Fassbender, Dominic “McNulty” West, and a surprisingly feral Olga Kurylenko all of whom do credible and charismatic work.

Comparing it to Driven, which was a B movie whose delusions of grandeur ended up sucking all the life out of it, Centurion is a film that does nothing but relentlessly deliver the goods all while couching things in a natural moral grey area that gives the film a little bit of gristle for you to chew on.

The film’s not perfect, not since The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnaussus have I seen a film where the harsh digital stock disagrees so completely with the film’s overall aesthetic. Just as much of a problem are the conspicuous digital gore shots, even more baffling then usual given the film’s excellent practical effects. Coupled with the slack final fifteen minutes, which follow a terrific final showdown between pursuers and pursued, it’s enough to keep Centurion in the “Very Good” category rather then the “Instant Genre Classic” one.

But for action movie fans who prefer First Blood to Rambo II, Centurion is just what the doctor ordered in a slack year for good action films.

5 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

I've read lukewarm to downright negative reviews on this one. Still, I like to make up my own mind when it comes to movies and will probably end up watching this in spite of the bad reviews.

I didnt exactly love Doomsday, I was one of the ones that was looking forward to it, but was ultimately let down by it.

But Im definetly willing to give Neil Marshall another try, I mean, the guy did make Dog Soldiers and The Descent both of which rock the house in my book.

J.D. said...

I am complete with agreement with The Film Connoisseur's assessment of Marshall's films but this new film sounds like it might be good, bloody, ultraviolent fun.

le0pard13 said...

Bryce, you and I are on the same wavelength with regards to this director's films. I bought the Blu-ray Disc of CENTURION on Neil Marshall's track record alone and really enjoyed the hell out of it. Yes, it's not perfect (I'm really getting tired of the digital gore effects, too), but it is an entertaining blast. Plus, besides Fassbender's participation, the cast includes another character actor I'm enjoying more each time I come across his work. For me, Liam Cunningham makes anything he's in that much better. Solid review, my friend.

Budd said...

Based on this review, I have requested the film from the library. Thanks.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ FC & JD: Yeah I can't really blame anyone for not digging Doomsday. It's a very specific vibe that movie has, and if it doesn't connect it doesn't connect.

I think Centurion is a lot easier to get into though. And I look forward to reading your takes.

@le0pard13: Glad to hear I'm not alone on this one. The cast really is great in this. They actually looked like people who lived back then.

@Budd: Excellent! Looking forward to reading about it on MAR.