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These Romans Are Crazy

Centurion (2010)

Gaia Elkington/Pathe Films

Several centuries after they did their thing, the Ninth Legion of Rome are back in business. Kevin Macdonald's film version of "The Eagle of the Ninth" will be along later, bringing with it Channing Tatum as a Roman centurion. But first, here's Michael Fassbender and a handful of British notables being hacked into small cubes by pissed-off Picts in "Centurion."

The best thing about "Centurion" is that it does not shoot for the moon, happy to be a low-ball gore fest of hacking, and slashing, and guts by the gallon, the kind of film where if someone's helmet comes off, it invariably still has his head inside.

The worst thing is everything else. "Centurion" is rich in dialogue that was covered in moss when Latin went out of style. "A whole new kind of war, without hope, without end," moans Mr. Fassbender when faced with an insurgency. His anonymous colleague Clueless Maximus promptly gets a rusty spear in the testicles, since this insurgency employs the fearsome strategy of walking up to the Romans while they aren't looking.

Filmed in the compulsory blue-gray wash that makes everyone look to be made out of cobalt, the film's character development is obliterated by such miserable editing that one'd only hope Neil Marshall had to remove 20 minutes at spearpoint. What plot survives involves Mr. Fassbender grievously offending a Pict bigwig named Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), which sounds like a Klingon cheese. The Pict duly unleashes Olga Kurylenko as a conveniently mute tracker with a nice sideline in slow-motion slaughtering.

This tracker has the kind of superhuman instincts for turning up on cue that only a thorough reading of the script could have given her. "How does she keep doing that?" ponders Marshall regular Liam Cunningham, redundantly. The unstoppable Ms. Kurylenko looks stupendous in rags, furs and woad from Dark Ages outlet Revlon. The Roman Empire takes the easy way out by falling.


Opens on April 23 in Britain and on Aug. 27 in the United States.

Written and directed by Neil Marshall; director of photography, Sam McCurdy; edited by Chris Gill; music by Ilan Eshkeri; production designer, Simon Bowles; produced by Christian Colson and Robert Jones; released by Magnolia Pictures (United States) and Pathé Films (Britain). Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. This film is rated R by M.P.A.A. and 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Michael Fassbender (Quintus), Dominic West (Virilus), Olga Kurylenko (Etain), David Morrissey (Bothos), Noel Clarke (Macros), Riz Ahmed (Tarak), J J Feild (Thax), Liam Cunningham (Brick), Ulrich Thomsen (Gorlacon), Imogen Poots (Arianne) and Axelle Carolyn (Aeron).


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