The SmarK DVD Rant for Centurion
Alternate title: Quintas Dias has a REALLY bad week.
I give this movie full props for effort and entertainment value, make no mistake. In the grand swords-and-sandals tradition of 300, Braveheart and Gladiator, Neil Marshall’s Centurion leaves it all on the screen. Unfortunately, it can’t quite live up to those lofty standards, but it’s a damn sight better than Robin Hood, at least.
So, about 2000 years ago, the Romans were marching across Europe trying to maintain their empire. Particularly, they went into what is now England and had a hell of a time with the people who were already living there, the Picts, who were of course not particularly keen on being subjugated. Centurion is one of those sorta-truthy “histori-tainment” type deals where we learn the secret fate of the ninth Roman Legion, three thousand men who went to the island looking for a fight and didn’t come back. Leading these bad-ass Romans is General Virilus (Dominic West), who is basically King Leonidas with better armor. Sadly, the awesome Virilus (he’s VIRIL!) isn’t the main character here, but rather lower-level Centurion Quintas Dias (son of a GLADIATOR!). Quintas has the misfortune of getting kidnapped and tortured by the Picts during a raid, thus requiring a rescue from Virilus and his legion. However, this only serves to rile up the almost-as-badass Pict king and his hordes of warpainted Celtic nutcases, and well, things don’t go very smoothly for the Romans as a result. Three words: Giant rolling fireballs. So now Quintas and a very small group of survivors has to rescue Virilus right back, and well, things don’t go very smoothly there, either. Pretty soon it’s Quintas and his ragtag group of Romans having to trudge through ancient England, in the damn winter, while being tracked by the medieval version of the Terminator. Look, let’s be honest here, this is a movie for people who thought that 300 was ridiculously upbeat and needed to tone down the optimism a bit. This is a dire movie more in the tradition of old school westerns where men were men who hung in until the end, outnumbered or not. So yeah, like 300, but I loved that movie too, so whatever.
That being said, this was a 90 minutes I really wanted to enjoy, and that’s worth something to me. Despite the budget constraints and slightly goofy logic employed at times (they can be tracked across the river by their scent, but they’re able to hide under a house’s floorboards with the Picts right above them?), there’s some cool stuff here. Heads explode, limbs are detached, the fight scenes are generally above the fast-cutting OCD nonsense that usually drags these things down (looking at YOU, Gladiator), and Michael Fassbender as Quintas is pretty convincing as a tired and yet bad-ass leader. Plus the script pulls very few punches in showing that both sides are kind of jerks, as the Picts are only defending their land, and most of the Romans are far from heroic. It kind of made me want to visit my local library and learn more about the Picts and their story. Or my local Wikipedia, whatever.
Yeah, it’s kind of violent and stupid, but I had a good time and could look past the flaws, like the needless twist ending and the thing with the wolves. You’ll know it when you see it. I just wish there had been more of Virilus in it. He was pretty awesome for a murdering Roman. Recommended for action fans!
Audio & Video
Given the dark, wintery subject matter, the transfer is understandably a bit murky at times. It also helps to disguise the low-budget set dressings, I think. The fake blood looked a bit too fake at times on high resolution DVD, but that’s part of the fun sometimes. The soundtrack is pretty rockin’, with all the grunts and arrows flying into the surrounds and some good rumble in the subwoofer when bad stuff is going down. Which was often. Not a really aggressive mix otherwise, but it got the job done.
Tons of stuff for a low-key release like this! You get director commentary, deleted scenes, a featurette, outtakes, interviews, and photo galleries.
If, like me, you enjoyed Braveheart, 300, and all those other movies where one man decided not to take shit from a bunch of other well-armed men despite how much bad stuff happened to him as a result, you’ll be into this one as well. Recommended.