Thursday, 3 March 2011

Centurion (2010) - Neil Marshall

After his last flawed effort it's good to see Marshall back on track with this film. His usual array of obsessions are all present, people fighting against the odds, the great outdoors and each other being the main themes that appear throughout his work. That and gore, great big buckets of the stuff. The story is pretty simple. Set in them olden days, a group of Roman soldiers find themselves in the middle of Scotland. The locals don't like them and chase is on, a race to the English border. Will the Scots catch them, how will the Romans fare stripped of their weapons and in uncharted territory? You know the sort of thing. The Scots even have blue paint on their faces, essential for any post Braveheart film about the savages living north of Newcastle.

I actually quite enjoy the 'on the run' genre of films. The first I remember seeing was The Warriors and ever since then I've loved 'em. From Naked Prey through to Apocalypto they are simple exciting films. Which is maybe why Marshall's effort holds up well, he sticks to the rules, the biggest of which is keep the momentum moving forwards. In other words don't stop in too many places, otherwise you run (pardon the pun) the risk of becoming a different genre, that of the road movie. And that wouldn't do would it?

So it's all nonsense of course, the whys and wherefores being mere dressing and nothing for you to worry your pretty little heads about. Were there black legionnaires back then, or is that just an excuse to give us more of a mixed bag of characters? Michael Fassbender heads up our gang of lads, he's all muscles and pent up sexual tension, under him are a cast of blokes that if you've been watching British films during the past few years, you should recognise with the minimum of fuss. Riz Ahmed being the best of the bunch, Noel Clarke the worst. There's plenty of shirts off running through the highlands shouting and grunting style action. Let's face it you can't do much better than Scotland if you are looking for dramatic locations, it's one of the things that is going to push this film above other similar films for me. The other thing this film has going for it is the sheer bloody violence on display, there's all your usual arms and legs being hacked off, but Centurion takes it up a notch to almost Romero like levels of nastiness. Heads lopped in half, more cut throats than I care to count and that's just the start of it. So something for everyone it would seem, half naked blokes for the ladies and lashing of man blood for the guys. Cough cough.

I'm a big fan of films doing what they are supposed to do, and that's why I thought this was fine. It's nothing you haven't seen before, there isn't any real depth to any of the characters either. But in a film like this I don't want that, I just want to enjoy my ninety minutes and see if the person I think is going to die first does (they didn't by the way). The film whips by as quick as a Glaswegian joy rider, it felt like there were places where possible story strands have fallen onto the cutting room floor, in order to keep the pace of the film up. Which is all par for the course with films like this. If you can get past the awful sub Superman opening credits, and not have too high expectations then you'll enjoy this too. A test I always give myself after seeing a film is to ask myself two questions;- 1. Would I watch this again? 2. Would I pick it up on DVD for a fiver? My answers for Centurion were both yes.

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