Well I suppose everyone has to misstep at sometime, right? That's how I feel about Neil Marshall's sword epic "Centurion". Although Marshall has created an instant classic horror with "The Descent" and an 80s throwback romp with "Doomsday", his pseudo-historical (actually I have no idea how historically accurate this film is) sword and survival film tends to stumble on its way to glory. With some seriously awesome visual style and a great cast, its actually fairly sad to see it falter, but it does.
Quintus Dias (Fassbender) is the lone survivor of a Picts attack on his Roman outpost. Taken hostage, he finally escapes and finds his way into the arms of the Ninth Legion. This legion is sent on a mission of brutality to thrown down with Picts in Britain for Rome to establish a great empire up north. When the Picts show they are more warrior than the Romans, the remaining members of the Ninth Legion have to get to safety very quickly. Hunted by a female tracker with no tongue and a knack of killing everyone in her wake, these few Romans will have to do anything to survive.
There is one thing that I have to give "Centurion". They certainly do know how to make the action sequences brutal. Despite my disappointment with its first act speed racing through characters, plot points, and random settings to get us to where we needed with the Ninth Legion marching into Britain, I'll be damned if the action sequences didn't have my eyes light up with glee in its brutality and sheer destructive awesomeness. Medieval battles do appear in rather over the top excess and its quite awesome. Partnered with Marshall's penchant for epic shots and gloomy settings, these are easily the highlight of the film. By the time the Picts ambush the Ninth Legion with giant flaming balls of raining pain (queue Manowar track "Wheels Of Fire" at this point) followed by a bloodbath, that's not an exaggeration, this film really dishes out the dark age brutality.
Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of substance to back up the visual magic of "Centurion". Characters seem rather dull and forgettable if not killed far too quickly to actually gather any audience empathy for their plight and the story seems to rush its first act at light speed to get to a rather monotonous chase sequence that only is made interesting by its rapid change of settings. With some solid actors and actresses, its sad to see them squandered away with the poorly painted 'heroes' and 'villains' of the picture.
To say that "Centurion" turned out to be a larger disappointment than I wanted is one helluva understatement. It looks great and is littered with grand battle sequences of swords and arrows, but it lacks significantly in its depth and character work. This creates a feast for the eyes, but rarely for the mind.
BONUS RANT: What's with the flying credits? Now it shows off some great scenery and gives it a very modern flair, but when the end credits popped up and did the same thing, I felt like I was missing something. I just don't get the why I guess.
Written By Matt Reifschneider