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The Last Viking of Scotland

MOVIE REVIEW
Valhalla Rising (2010)

Valhalla-rising-nicolas-winding-refn-mads-mikkelsen
IFC Films

“Bronson,” the last film from Danish writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, told the story of Britain’s most notoriously violent criminal through frequent excursions into the character’s deranged subconscious. “Valhalla Rising,” Mr. Refn’s latest, feels like the sort of movie Charles Bronson might have made were he fascinated by Vikings.

An absurdly caffeinated, hyperkinetic swirl of brutal violence, overwrought imagery and leaden acting, it’s an ambitious film that takes itself way too seriously. Mr. Refn seems to think he’s making some sort of primal masterpiece, when the reality is closer to a World Wrestling Entertainment production in content and a heavy-metal music video in tone.

Bones crunch, painful screams abound and innards get dissected as the mute One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) romps across the primal landscape of medieval Europe. To his fellow Vikings, he’s a terrifying, mythical figure said to have arisen “from hell.” Yet he's like a father to the orphaned child Are (Maarten Stevenson), and the pair joins compatriots of sorts on a journey to the Holy Land that takes a wrong, treacherous turn.

Mr. Refn has repeatedly demonstrated a Mel Gibson-like predilection for uninhibited, gruesome onscreen violence, as well as a fervent belief in the power of an angry tone. In “Valhalla Rising,” he abandons any pretense of modulation, often opting to soak the frame in a blood red tint, while the camera lingers on every last body blow.

The rawness in the bruised, shredded faces, inked bodies and sudden blood squirts is heightened to the point of parody. The metal-infused soundtrack, stilted sparse dialogue and amplified groans and grunts further indicate a blatant stab at some sort of weird hard-rock sensibility.

In fact, “Valhalla Rising” is a straightforward tough-guy extravaganza, a self-serious testosterone fest that's about as plausible and as subtle as Sylvester Stallone's upcoming "Expendables." It’s a far cry from the serious epic Mr. Refn appears to have mistaken it for.

VALHALLA RISING

Opened on July 16 in the United States.

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; written by Mr. Refn and Roy Jacobsen; director of photography, Morten Soborg; edited by Mat Newman; music by Peter-Peter and Peter Kyed; production designer, Laurel Wear; costumes by Gill Horn; produced by Johnny Andersen, Bo Ehrhardt and Henrik Danstrup; released by IFC Films. Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Mads Mikkelsen (One Eye), Maarten Stevenson (the Boy), Gordon Brown (Hagen), Andrew Flanagan (Gudmond), Gary Lewis (Kare), Gary McCormack (Hauk), Alexander Morton (Barde), Jamie Sieves (Gorm), Ewan Stewart (Eirik) and Matthew Zajac (Malkolm).

Comments

I doubt you watched more than 20 minutes of this movie. The latter part (that is, the last 50 mins) is more or less precisely the opposite of what you just described. I would recommend everyone who reads this review to watch the whole movie on his own, unprejudiced and unbothered by this review.

The past is dirty and violent.IM tired of flakes on wires making impossible jumps. This movie has the distinction of having the most realisitc fight scenes ever, had I traveled back in time to see fighting slaves this is what it would have looked like, not glitzy and fog lense filtered. A poor ending but the way these people see natives of a new world they stumble on is true to how it would be and feel, creepy and forboding.

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