This isn’t how I remember baptism working …

Theatrical Release Date: 09/03/2010
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Andreas Wisniewski, Dave Legeno, Imogen Poots, Axelle Carolyn, Dominic West, David Morrissey, Ulrich Thomsen, Olga Kurylenko, Liam Cunningham

Do you like gladiator movies? Well, this isn’t one of them but I just felt like lightening the mood before I talk about how disappointed I was upon exiting a screening of “Centurion”. The film comes from writer/director Neil Marshall whose previous films were “The Descent“, “Dog Soldiers” and “Doomsday“. Each have a particular charm, involve a decent amount of violence, and start with the letter ‘D’. And to no surprise, he hasn’t changed up his formula of pitting a horde of barbarians/creatures against a small, desperate cadre.

This time around, it’s a handful of Roman soldiers trying to escape the Picts (Celtic tribes who banded together to keep Britain (specifically Scotland) free of foreign rule). There are countless hacks and slashes along the way, cutting deep into flesh, if not removing heads entirely. Clearly, Marshall wants to keep the fake blood industry from going under. The key difference (other than time period and setting) between this and his other films is that the title starts with an entirely different letter of the alphabet and perhaps Marshall derives his power from ‘D’ like Samson did from his hair; because “Centurion” simply doesn’t work.

The basic premise of the film allows for two directions: non-stop brutality and action, or an insightful exploration of the hardships incurred by the fleeing Roman soldiers (maybe with some decent fights along the way). Marshall tries for both, and in the process, fails to hit either mark.

He had a good cast, which included Michael Fassbender and Dominic West as two of the Romans. Each do what they can but are hamstrung by a lackluster script which never allows the audience to fully invest in the characters. Sure, it’s clear that they’re running for their lives but at no point do we care who gets killed, or when, or why. Even the action could have been shot so much better, as most scenes are confusing and leave us wondering exactly who is getting skewered; in the big epic battle, the rhythm and edit of swords slicing into people was so constant and repetitive I thought there was a dance remix going on.

Perhaps the only bit of film that could be classified as interesting is Olga Kurylenko in the role of a tracker/skilled killer. She rides around on horseback, wielding a spear and lacks the ability to speak thanks to the loss of her tongue to a Roman blade. This may sound a bit corny, and it is, but what I loved was the stirred memory of the Cyclops from “Krull” (a very bad fantasy film I watched too many times as a kid). So whenever Kurylenko goes riding around, I got to chuckle to myself, sadly sparking the most neurons in my brain as the film otherwise lumbered along to its inconsequential ending.

I will give Marshall credit for utilizing the Scottish landscape well, capturing some very beautiful areas. Also, the folks behind the opening titles made more believable 3D (in a 2D film) than I saw in all of “The Last Airbender“. However, that’s not nearly enough to base a recommendation for the film on and I can only manage a 2 out of 5 for “Centurion”. If you’ve liked any of Marshall’s previous work, you’re far better off re-watching one of them than spending the cash to catch this in theaters.