Centurion

Neil Marshall, the director of the best horror film of the 00’s (The Descent) plus Michael Fassbender, one of the best young actors working today plus Dominic West, Det. McNulty from The Wire. How could you go wrong?

Well, you go wrong when you remember that while Marshall hit one out of the park with his spelunking terror he also embraced his love of cartoonish gore in the fun but very throw-away Doomsday. And I keep having to remind myself that Fassbender and West starred in 300. The above equation equals Centurion an utterly forgettable swords and sandals genre piece set in Roman occupied Britain that wastes the talent of all three. The script is full of banal clichés, the cinematography, while quite beautiful most of the time, cribs heavily from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (there were at least five instances of helicopter shots of dudes running through the rocky wilderness.) The characters are all cardboard cut-outs – none are fleshed out enough for you to care a lick when they get sliced, beheaded, disemboweled or stabbed in the cock while pissing off the side of a garrison wall.

Never ever piss off of the side of a Roman garrison wall.

My theater experience was quite unusual. For some reason I still cannot fathom this film didn’t play at the muliplex but rather at our local art-house chain Landmark Theater, the Kendall Cinema. Centurion stuck out like a sore thumb next to the usual latte-liberal fare (also playing yesterday night: the lesbian family comedy The Kids are All Right, the ballet drama Mao’s Last Dancer…you get the picture.) So the straight-faced cut ‘em up ultra-violence, not surprisingly, attracted a bit of a different element than usual. This was demonstrated about half-way through the film when one cantankerous patron (the type of middle aged dude I usually saw at the Kendall seeing a revival of A bout de Souffle or the newest Jim Jarmusch or Wes Anderson film) approached a woman a few rows in front of me and asked her to (to echo this blog’s name) turn off her cell phone. However, sitting directly in front of where this man stood was an early 30s meathead dude in a wife-beater who, immediately after this man spoke, turned around and yelled at the middle aged dude for apparently “sneaking up behind him.” The meathead stood up and faced the middle aged dude who said he wasn’t talking to him but to the woman with the phone. The meathead responded by saying “You better step away or I’ll show you what this movie’s all about.” The middle aged dude pulled out his cell phone and threatened to call 911.

Yes my screening of Centurion at the Kendall Cinema was inches away from being interrupted by a fist fight. At the end I’d almost have preferred that as I’m sure it would have proved significantly more entertaining than the film itself.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

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