THE FILM YAP » invasion http://www.thefilmyap.com We Never Shut Up About Movies Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:42:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Purge http://www.thefilmyap.com/2013/06/06/the-purge/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2013/06/06/the-purge/#comments Thu, 06 Jun 2013 04:01:26 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=39695 Continue reading ]]> purgeinside

Consider a fabricated, but frighteningly not-too-distant, future of 2022 America. In a “nation reborn” by “our New Founding Fathers,” unemployment barely scrapes 1% and crime has plummeted to unprecedentedly safe levels. Life, it seems, is good.

But 8,754 annual utopian hours are possible only thanks to a brutally dystopian rebranding of the remaining 12 — a time known as the Purge during which all crime, including murder, becomes legal from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (Of course, “Purge feeds” are televised.)

Police, fire and emergency personnel take the night off. And while targeting “Level 10” government employees or using “Class 4” weapons (unspecified, but think “leaders” and “bombs”) is prohibited, everything and everyone else is fair game.

There’s a feel-good version of this story, in which a group of otherwise timid folks put together a party powered by prostitutes and marijuana. “The Purge” isn’t it.

Instead, writer-director James DeMonaco’s nasty, brutish and 85-minutes-short film intelligently explodes the impetus behind the Milgram experiment to a shocking, menacing macro level: If it were not only temporarily allowed, but even encouraged, by our government, would you, as a law-abiding citizen, scratch your itch to kill?

During ironically soothing PSA ads, the Purge is described as “releasing the beast.” But what, exactly, is being purged? Our urge or our scourge, as the movie suggests, of the poor and homeless? Is this a brief moment of catharsis carved out to save our society, or is it merely a genocidal pogrom disguised as a governmental program — a socioeconomic cleansing under the guise of a “stronger” America?

Eventually, DeMonaco’s brilliant setup yields to so-so siege action that takes place in the home of James Sandin (Ethan Hawke). He’s a security-system salesman for whose family the Purge has enabled lavish luxury — fortifying his bank account and living space as much, if not more, as his neighbors’ homes.

“A garage in a boat? Who needs a car garage in a boat?,” James laughs while riding out what he thinks will be another peaceful night of wish-list shopping and movies with the family — wife Mary (Lena Headey), teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and preteen son Charlie (Max Burkholder).

Charlie’s obsessed with secrecy, surveillance and survival — more or less all of the mysteries of the Purge he’s only just now beginning to comprehend. And lining the walls of his bedroom hidey-hole are some briefly glimpsed, somewhat disturbing drawings that shine a light on his darkest thoughts.

Like a young Joaquin Phoenix, Burkholder suggests an internal tumult and psychological complexity. And by coloring Charlie with outside-the-lines curiosity, “The Purge” creates a strong escape hatch from the genre’s usual clichés; why wouldn’t a kid this eager to know more about the Purge go exploring, even in the dark?

The Sandins’ well guarded home suffers various threats from within and without — some laughably unlikely, some credibly formidable, and most derived from Charlie allowing a homeless veteran inside (Edwin Hodge, credited as Bloody Stranger).

Bloody Stranger is the “filthy swine” quarry of Polite Stranger (Rhys Wakefield) and his prep school-groomed gang of marauders. He offers a simple bargain from the Sandins’ doorstep: Let Bloody Stranger out so they can finish the job … or they’ll huff, puff and blow the house in.

Flashing an unsettling rictus grin at the Sandins’ security camera — meaning us — Wakefield oozes entitled menace in a manner that approaches Christian Bale’s as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho.” Wakefield gives a chilling, commanding performance as a character who has no name but to whom he assigns one anyway: Pure Evil.

As co-writer of the “Assault on Precinct 13” remake and “The Negotiator,” DeMonaco knows how to wring suspense from a simple scenario — letting the Sandins defend their home with smart, barbarous efficiency. Better still, he trusts Hawke — who’s almost better in these B-movie beasts anymore than anything prestigious without “Before” in its title — to deftly explore the grindhouse-gray morality when he weighs Bloody Stranger’s life against the lives of his family.

Ultimately, the siege sequence is undone by one too many sneak-up-and-shoot-’em moments, a poor sense of the size or floor plan of the Sandins’ home, some dopey decisions from daughter Zoey, and the overused trope of killers in creepy masks (howdy, “Strangers”!).

But let’s go back to that initial setup, easily the movie’s smartest, most interesting asset.

Set just nine years from now, the film plausibly implies the Purge could’ve been part of a 2016 presidential candidate’s platform. (It is, after all, discussed in Charlie’s history class.) Our divisive rhetoric and intolerable strife have given way to this decisive action. Not for nothing is the adjectivally loaded choice of a TV newscast to describe it as an outlet for “American rage.”

The Purge feels like the fictitious offspring of America’s shotgun marriage between real-life, tenuous policies and discordant political bluster. It’s also clearly a terrible idea. At no point does DeMonaco suggest anything to the contrary. But from a political point of view, he merely invites you to the wedding and lets you decide on whose side you’d like to sit. And in this ceremony, there’s definitely not a sermon.

While the film takes a definitive stance on how it feels about the Purge, it’s remarkably, refreshingly, devoid of a specifically partisan agenda. If that sounds like a copout, know that the Purge feels like a worst-case compromise among religious extremists, Tea Partiers, ultra-liberals, flip-floppers and everyone else on the Hill.

“I will become a better person, and you will have made a great sacrifice,” shouts one of the well-dressed blue bloods prepping to purge. Tell me that line doesn’t simultaneously aim at right-wingers who cover their cowardice in religion’s cloak and left-wingers who think only in terms of what to give up for a greater good. (Also, Hodge’s military man never speechifies about how the country he fought for has let him down; only because of dog tags dangling from his neck do we know he’s a vet.)

Even more interesting, and incendiary, are the film’s religious trappings and iconography. The Sandins, among others on their affluent street, set out a pot of blue flowers as a show of support for the Purge. Just as the Jews painted lamb’s blood on doors during Passover to assure their salvation, so, too, do these citizens to promote safety from passing angels of death.

And many of those who purge speak of it with the fire-and-brimstone fervor of Old Testament talk — almost like a rite to be invoked, inspired by the idyllic future they think it will help secure. (As Charlie’s characterization is to the Don’t Go In There Rule, so is this to a perfect workaround on the Fallacy of the Talking Killer, through which people soliloquize first and shoot later.)

What “The Purge” can’t circumvent is a finale that spins out into almost unintentionally amusing territory, thanks to a twist that DeMonaco rather terribly telegraphs in the first act. Even then, it finds a way to elevate its meaty discourse to a new level. Saying how, exactly, would be a spoiler, but like “The Purge” itself, what looks dumb on the surface has smarts to spare.

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Oblivion http://www.thefilmyap.com/2013/04/18/oblivion/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2013/04/18/oblivion/#comments Fri, 19 Apr 2013 02:11:41 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=38940 Continue reading ]]> oblivioninside

Director Joseph Kosinski’s curious, compelling combination of analog patience and digital prowess saves “Oblivion” from its own worst decisions.

Yes, it pathologically piles up twists from a dozen earlier sci-fi movies. It presents action that’s competent and crisp but rarely pulse-pounding. As to the movie’s own heartbeat, it races neither as poetically nor rapidly as the script thinks it does.

“Oblivion” is never boring, but it’s also never better than in its first 45 minutes. It’s then that Kosinski meticulously builds the aesthetics and appearance of our land as the film envisions it in 2077 — decimated by the destruction of Earth’s moon (at the hands of invading aliens) and our scorched-earth nuclear retaliation against them.

That’s because here, finally, is a director not named Christopher Nolan who’s resolutely committed to the thrills of a big movie — not “big” in the sense of budget or blockbuster, but in creating a believable enormity in the world onscreen. Here, Kosinski envelops us in macro and micro details for the freshest post-apocalyptic setting in years — seamlessly merging real Icelandic locations and visual effects.

If ever there were a movie for which a studio would have pushed 3D, it’s “Oblivion.” Be thankful Kosinski had the common sense to push back; like “The Dark Knight Rises” before it, “Oblivion” is a beautiful rejoinder to Hollywood’s insistence that “engrossment” must equal “3D.” See it in IMAX, too, for the added immersion is worth the upcharge, as is the rock-concert volume cranked up on an alternately elegiac and energetic score by “Midnight City” hitmakers M83.)

“Oblivion” wisely offers a spectacle big enough to shadow audience suspicions, which qualify for overtime pay after just five minutes of information. At least Kosinski (and co-writers Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt) eventually mete out its mysteries with more patience.

Consider “Oblivion’s” first 45 minutes the downbeat denouement to “Independence Day” if its aliens were running Mac systems and Jeff Goldblum’s virus were useless.

Most of who’s left from the human race has retreated to a colony on Titan, a moon of Saturn. But Jack (Tom Cruise) and Vicca (Andrea Riseborough) are mankind’s custodial crew on Earth. Their task is to guard the gargantuan hydro-rigs — sucking up water to power the colony — from “scavs,” the ragtag remnants of repelled aliens, still raising a ruckus.

Jack and Vicca share much more than a mission from their hermetically sealed high-rise in the clouds. He descends for daily patrols in a wasp-shaped jet that resembles an interstellar IKEA vehicle. She runs point from above while remotely reporting to Sally (Melissa Leo) at mission control.

Their tour of duty is almost over, though, and their own passage to Titan just days away. But Jack is haunted by dreams of a woman (Olga Kurylenko) in 2017 New York. And after she falls from the sky in a downed craft, Jack’s journey to find her places the planet’s fate in his hands.

Saying more, or even hinting at the films to which “Oblivion” bears the strongest resemblance, would ruin what are either surprises or eventualities (depending on your science-fiction education).

Of its endgame, it can be said spoiler-free that it only barely probes the human-nature idea of curiosity versus compliance. And for a movie topping two hours, five minutes could have been spared on Jack dealing with ramifications, and emotional reconciliation, of something we learn about his past.

Even in action mode, Cruise is capable of more than stiff-armed running and high-pitched, anguished shout. Here, he’s best at painting Jack as an earthbound misfit who’s carved out his own little shack on the last green bit of land that’s left. (It’s here, too, that the woozy guitar solo of “Ramble On” becomes the soundtrack to an unsettling vision.)

But gone is the wackadoo spontaneity Cruise has brought to many of his roles from the last 10 years, replaced by robotic rigidity for the standard-issue standoff that ends the film. (While his and Kurylenko’s chemistry feels similarly inert, Riseborough hits the right notes of frailty in her emotions and fealty to her mission.)

Then there’s Morgan Freeman, showing up halfway through to collect an exposition-reciting paycheck. Although critical to “Oblivion’s” mystery, his role should have been filled by someone in whose word we might not inherently place so much trust. It’s through him that, just when “Oblivion” could ratchet up the paranoia even further, the movie settles for a mad rush of action sequences.

The saving grace of the second hour are the large, circular attack drones against which Jack regularly squares off. Although they’re obviously computer-generated effects, the drones have a weight, presence and pissed-off disposition that make them formidable foes. They move with a clear sense of sentient disdain, and their design subtly resembles a frowning face.

To the well versed, “Oblivion” certainly lacks the philosophical ferocity of its forbears. But consider the teens that might watch it, their minds as yet un-blown by sci-fi classics of old. After all, there are certainly worse things “Oblivion” could be than a primer, and one that embraces sundry influences with affection, not cynicism.

As in Kosinski’s feature-length debut, “Tron: Legacy,” form ultimately triumphs over function, however entertaining. But at least he’s tipping the scales in the right direction.

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Red Dawn http://www.thefilmyap.com/2012/11/20/red-dawn/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2012/11/20/red-dawn/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 05:01:01 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=36841 Continue reading ]]>

“Red Dawn’s” prologue is a whiplash-inducing montage of factual newscasts and fictional narration, suggesting America’s contracted economy has eroded efficient defense against tyrannical nations who may do more than rattle sabers.

The film enforces its own severe austerity measures — streamlining the paranoia, politics and pacing of the 1984 original for an aggressive, action-only approach.

Yes, “Red Dawn” thunders through 94 swift minutes, with a commanding central presence. Though he shot his role long before his fame as Thor, Chris Hemsworth offers his best-yet leading-man performance here. (Similarly, a pre-“Hunger Games” Josh Hutcherson shows up in a supporting role.) But next to its forerunner, it’s timid and toothless. Had it not gone gun-shy about the identity of its international enemy, today’s “Red Dawn” could’ve had bite.

Originally, China was to be the invasive force, collaborating with Russia. Imagine the potency of that narrative powder keg — America’s trillion-dollar creditor tossing out our debt in exchange for forcible occupation and societal reeducation, all under the eye of propaganda posters reading “Helping You Fight Corporate Corruption” and “Getting You Back On Your Feet.”

Instead, in one of many decisions that delayed “Dawn” (which finished filming nearly three years ago), China was replaced by North Korea, mainly via visual effects. This came after sharp Chinese criticism of leaked script excerpts and worries that this costly $75 million film might face boycotts in a crucial international market.

Like the original, Russia is really driving the bus here. But the intended endgame — or the victor-spoils terms brokered by these clearly inequitable powers — is unmentioned. As it stands, this “Red Dawn” means to trade not on current anxiety, but the bankability its stars acquired while the film languished on studio shelves.

It swaps small-town Colorado for big-city Spokane — which urbanizes and, in a subtle way, undercuts, the undertaking. Granted, Spokane isn’t a super-city, but the desolation of oppressive internment in middle-of-nowhere America never really sets in. The closest it comes is a hitch in the throat as Mayor Jenkins (Michael Beach) introduces Colonel Cho (Will Yun Lee) as “the acting prefect of this district.”

And this script consolidates characters and traits, namely in Hemsworth’s Jed Eckert. He’s now a Marine who makes an unexpected return home to see his policeman father (Brett Cullen) and Matt, a star-quarterback brother forever in Jed’s shadow, played by Josh Peck — whose dopey-droopy face looks nothing like Hemsworth whatsoever. (Fans anticipating one specific line from Cullen may feel cheated; instead, he says what a dad motivating sons to fight back might really say.)

In the original, Powers Boothe played a downed Air Force pilot whose field-tested fighting style helped whip a group of displaced teenagers into a mighty militia. A variation on that character, played by Boothe lookalike Jeffrey Dean Morgan, eventually shows up. But it’s now Jed who assumes the lead after the battle begins.

Said invasion steals a page from “Jurassic Park” before a frisson of fury, with hellacious explosions and concussive, cage-rattling camerawork on which first-time director Dan Bradley (a second-unit man on the latter “Bourne” films) has made his name.

But it lacks the insidious, iconoclastic shattering of American peace seen when a lone paratrooper executed a high school history teacher in the original. Here, enemies descend in immaculate, digitized formations. And when a North Korean squad has the drop on the Eckert boys, they stand like statues with their assault rifles.

Instead, Jed and Matt escape to their family’s isolated forest cabin, along with Robert (Hutcherson), Toni (Adrianne Palicki of “Friday Night Lights”) and Daryl, the mayor’s son (Connor Cruise, the adopted son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman).

Only in Cruise’s hands does a gun ever feel disquietingly larger than the child holding it, and he plays it to understated, ultimately mournful effect. Only 14 when “Red Dawn” was filmed, Cruise has clearly heeded his parents’ best advice.

Joining them are Danny (Edwin Hodge), Julie (Alyssa Diaz) and Greg (Julian Alcaraz), whose names might as well be Expendable Ethnicities 1, 2 and 3. While the remake admirably diversifies the group, it also plays right into every imaginable stereotype.

You may also expect their coalescence into a guerrilla unit known as the Wolverines to be a bit more cautious and not altogether confident. But the movie dispenses with their armament, and training, in a slick montage. This swift passage of time is a shift from the spirit-sapping seasonal changes of the original, omitting a sense of just how long these kids are out there fighting.

Thankfully, “Dawn” slows for Hemsworth to put forth moments of convincing conflict and stillness, as striking as they are in short supply. Jed fled a family fractured by a mother’s death into the arms of the Armed Forces — his life forever defined by the young-adult impulse he’s trying to corral in those under his charge.

“These things are badass,” Robert says of a fully automatic handgun. “Not if you know anything,” Jed barks back — a wounded warrior, not a “cold, dead hand” guy.

Jed also astutely observes some townspeople’s capitulation as a different choice than he has made, not a shifted loyalty. And he notes no one’s suffering is unique, least of all Matt’s, who unwillingly left behind his girlfriend, Erica (Isabel Lucas). Matt’s insistence on liberating Erica threatens to undermine the carefully choreographed attacks that could thwart, and unseat, Cho and his cohorts.

Bradley and his team bring crisp professionalism and panache to all of the action sequences, which culminate in a Marine-assisted raid to secure a North Korean secret weapon. He’s hindered only by occasionally going overboard on cut-rate CG and a bizarrely abrupt ending that opportunistically, and unadvisedly, leaves the door open for more.

Essentially, it’s a technically proficient, matinee timewaster — not the palpable, clammy-palmed geopolitical nightmare that could have been.

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Attack the Block http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/27/attack-the-block-2/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2011/08/27/attack-the-block-2/#comments Sun, 28 Aug 2011 02:19:14 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=25986 Continue reading ]]>

The first time we really see our heroes in “Attack the Block,” they are mugging a defenseless woman. They are cruel and irredeemable. Then aliens fall from the sky. The gang’s first reaction to encountering a creature from another world? Kick it to death because it scratched up one of their faces. That’s what happens during an alien invasion. Some people panic and some people go back to their flat to pick up their baseball bat.

Joe Cornish wrote and directed this fantastic debut.  It’s such a well-paced and inventive movie, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been making films like this for years. The way he uses smoke, for example, lets him redefine a familiar location into something terrifying and foreign. Once the fight begins, it never completely slows down. The creatures aren’t stopping to plan anything out because they are so animalistic. There is no reasoning with them. They don’t have individual personalities or names. You can’t even see their eyes. They are the blackest black except for their identifiable teeth.

Having the army fight aliens is so overdone, it has become boring. Having a bunch of punk British teenagers is incredibly refreshing. Their lingo is so dense and fun to listen to. It works like “Brick” where specific words go over the head, but always makes sense within context. Plus the gang doesn’t think too far ahead and until it starts becoming scary, they’re just having fun. They each have their own weapon as if they were Ninja Turtles. (They even have an April!)

The script comes together as a nice complete story with plenty of payoffs for the many characters. Having 10 characters bouncing around and always going to different parts of the block might be difficult to follow, Cornish allows the actors to add their own personal charm to their characters. The movie goes by so fast, there isn’t time for backstories or even to learn some of their names. They all function well as a group.

This film has been rolling out slowly, hitting up most of the major cities before Indianapolis. The reaction from those cities and its initial run in England has been very positive. I just wish this came out a few weeks earlier because this is one of the more satisfying summer movies. The action is strong, the characters are real and all ages can enjoy (given those ages are OK with profanity). If you thought “Super 8” had too much focus on trying to be nice to the alien, this is for you.

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Skyline http://www.thefilmyap.com/2010/11/12/skyline/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2010/11/12/skyline/#comments Sat, 13 Nov 2010 03:16:43 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=16996 Continue reading ]]>

“Skyline” should’ve starred Casper van Dien and Coolio and stayed sequestered on SyFy, to be giggled at en route to promising programming.

Given potential legal action awaiting directors Greg and Colin Strause (hubristically crediting themselves as “The Brothers Strause”), it might have also wisely reduced their liability on this alien-invasion action film.

Set aside “Skyline’s” dull, unremarkable nature as a reason to hide it from critics; business sense suggests that might have staved off process servers a bit longer.

The Strauses directed this film about the military attacking aliens that invade Los Angeles. The Strauses served as visual-effects supervisors for “Battle: Los Angeles,” a 2011 Sony film about the military attacking aliens that invade Los Angeles.

You see where this is going — Sony wonders why the Strauses kept “Skyline” on the QT and whether they appropriated technology developed for “Battle” to squeeze “Skyline” out on the relative $10-million cheap and months before “Battle.”

As a middle finger, Sony posted a “Battle” trailer online today, and there’s more artistry in its two minutes than in “Skyline’s” 92.

Derivative enough to be called “Adherence Day,” “Skyline” knocks off so many alien-invasion films you can hear the Strauses’ commentary referring to the “Cloverfield” moment, the “District 9” moment. (The Strauses didn’t write the screenplay. They left that to other visual-effects people, Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell.)

The “Skyline” moment? Future filmmakers won’t reference any such thing.

The Strauses claim 20th Century Fox butchered their 2007 directorial debut, “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.” That may be, but “Skyline,” filmed and financed on their own, does little for their claims to competency — their production-company names like Hydraulx and Transmission attached to a real jalopy.

Its mere 15 minutes of exposition are so bad that the film must flashback to them after an opening scene of initial alien contact.

Jarrod (“Six Feet Under’s” Eric Balfour, still looking like an eraser with a face and goatee) and girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) fly to L.A. to celebrate the birthday of Jarrod’s best bud, Terry (Donald Faison of “Scrubs”).

Surprise! Terry is a visual effects man living like a gangster — with a trophy girlfriend (Brittany Daniel), comely assistant (Crystal Reed) and posh penthouse suite. (“Skyline” was filmed largely in and around Greg Strause’s condominium complex, no doubt left standing after its shellacking to appease the condo association.)

After a night of hard partying — and revelations of pregnancy and infidelity — the group awakens to blue light streaming through the remote-controlled blinds.

In “Skyline,” burst capillaries come not from violently regurgitated Patron but from the blue light’s tractor-beam powers: Stare at it, get vacuumed into spacecraft that look like hovering tortoises and have your brains swallowed like shrimp cocktail, which Jarrod and Elaine narrowly avoid.

The automatic blinds open whenever the Strauses need to turn up the heat on their special-effects sizzle reel — revealing an L.A. under siege by aliens resembling, in various incarnations, crustaceans, Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots and octopi you see atop car washes. (Creature designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. do what everyone else without extraterrestrial innovation does: Crib “Alien’s” H.R. Giger.)

Our heroes must weigh the risk of venturing outside (“The spaceships aren’t over the water, so we can escape by boat! Right?”) or staying put and waiting for rescue.

Venturing outside goes badly (especially for Faison, yanked into something smellier than the last season of “Scrubs”). But so does staying put, as the aliens find their way into the complex.

From there, “Skyline’s” two centerpieces are airborne strikes undertaken by drones as remotely operated as “Skyline” itself. They amount to nothing more than a nuclear kick to a hornet’s nest and a laughable suggestion from Jarrod (ever the brainiac), who’s itching to go outside, that radiation will kill them in the condo.

Flood the market as they do with technically impressive money shots, the Strauses endow “Skyline” with as little excitement as they do common sense — leading to a goofy conclusion that looks like a cheaply made live-action version of “Bionicle.”

For all the bombs bursting in air, “Skyline” is just a TV star-spangled bummer.

1.5 Yaps

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Centurion http://www.thefilmyap.com/2010/11/03/centurion/ http://www.thefilmyap.com/2010/11/03/centurion/#comments Wed, 03 Nov 2010 21:02:08 +0000 http://www.thefilmyap.com/?p=16684 Continue reading ]]>

For those who found “Braveheart” too tame, I give you Neil Marshall’s latest, the fantastic “Centurion.”

Marshall (“The Descent,” “Doomsday”) specializes in affecting, entertaining gorefests, and this film is no different, with a bit of a twist: a history lesson along the way.

“Centurion” spotlights on the Roman Army’s legendary 9th Legion, which for all intents and purposes are the Roman version of a black ops or Green Beret unit. They’re elite soldiers brought in to win the fights no one else can.

They met their match, though, when the Romans invade England and run into the vicious Picts, guerilla fighters who understandably want these invaders out of their country.

The Romans send the 9th legion out to take down the Picts, but they’re ambushed and find the tables turned on them. The Roman general (Dominic West) is abducted, and a botched rescue leads to the death of the Pict king’s son, and the war is on, leaving Centurion Quentin Dias (Michael Fassbender) to lead the increasingly small legion.

Soon what’s left of the 9th finds themselves suddenly the prey as the Picts, led by the vicious warrior woman Etain (Olga Kurylenko), and the rest of the film is a struggle for survival.

Part of the film’s appeal is that there aren’t necessarily good guys or bad guys, only two sides in a war. The Picts are brutal and merciless, but are being invaded. The Romans are shown in some instances as noble and just, but at the same time they’re invading and conquering another country. It creates an interesting dynamic that doesn’t judge, but rather places them in their own time for us to observe.

The fight sequences are a cavalcade of carnage, shots that would make Mel Gibson flinch as heads, legs, arms, and other appendages roll at will. Marshall deftly combines practical effects and CG to a nice balance within his budget (which was quite low according to the making-of in the disc’s special features section). Blood sprays, splatters, globs, and chunks. They’re spectacular fight scenes, wonderfully filmed and merciless in their execution. These were brutal times, and so are these guys ready to lay a hurting on anyone.

The acting is routinely good as well, highlighted by Kurylenko’s standout performance as a mute wild woman. She more than holds her own in fight scenes with men; she makes you believe she should dominate these soldiers. Imogen Poots also makes a good showing as a woman exiled as a witch whom the surviving soldiers encounter.

Marshall is at the head of hotshot young filmmakers working today, making the films he wants to make with or without a big studio backing. Here he washes his film in blues and browns and creates a tremendous visual style heightened in a similar but subtler way than, say “300″ did.

The bonus features are surprisingly strong given this film’s low profile, with the aforementioned making-of, along with deleted scenes and outtakes and a commentary track.

If you’ve never experienced a Neil Marshall film, you should treat yourself. Why not start with “Centurion”?

Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 3.5 Yaps

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