Pretty lousy, but fun if you’re in the right mood. No surprise that hack writer/director Neil Marshall went on to helm a couple of GAME OF THRONE episodes, as tone, pace & gore level all demonstrate.* (That includes the use of unconvincing digital blood splatter effects that look like animated applique.) Michael Fassbender, lithe & cut as a disco dancer, is the second-in-command Roman centurion who survives after the Picts of Northern Britain massacre his legion. With the handful left, he heads into enemy territory, hoping to rescue captured General Dominic West. It doesn’t quite work out, and soon they are back on the run from a gaggle of handpicked Picts, including Olga Kurylenko, ultra deadly wolf-lady. Yikes! She some scary gal!! Much slash & burn along the way. (The usual sound & fury, signifying the usual nothing.) Fortunately, when rest is needed for the wounded & weary, a blonde bonnie lassie is conveniently stumbled upon. She’s got her own beef with those Picts, so takes them in, feeds them tasty, non-poisonous mushroom stew and even speaks their language . . . with a Scottish accent. It's all coming out as English, of course, but presumably standing in for Latin. (What a missed opportunity! Rome-era Latin with a Scot’s ‘burr!’) And since everyone, savages & invaders, seem to have come straight out of some RSC production, you barely notice that the story makes the local underdogs villains and the occupation force good guys. (But they noticed, tacking on an ironic twist to even things out. All that’s missing is a heap of haggis on the dinner table for a coda fit for a hero.)
DOUBLE-BILL: While this barely opened Stateside, the storyline was picked up the following year in THE EAGLE/’11 (not seen here - w/ Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell/dir.-Kevin Macdonald). It also flopped, but after a proper release.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Indeed, GoT withdrawal might be the best reason to watch this. Then again, GoT without Peter Dinklage is like GoT . . . without Peer Dinklage.