Centurion is the story of an island of plucky natives defying the wrath of a massive foreign power and winning. No, I’m not talking about World War II, but the Roman invasion of Britain in about 100 AD. Described by Nuts Magazine as “the British answer to Gladiator” (a quote which is odd in itself because Ridley Scott is British), it follows the story of the Ninth Legion as they fight against the dastardly Picts, who don’t want to be ruled by the Romans and are putting up a fight.
The Romans are the good guys here (or so the film makes out; personally I support the Picts) and the protagonist is Quintus Dias, who ends up having to lead his men home with bravery, honour, and all that. None of the Romans particularly shine in their roles but they aren’t bad either. Recognisable faces among the cast include Noel Clarke (Kidulthood, Adulthood, Doctor Who) and Lee Ross (Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes), as well as a small role from Paul Freeman (Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Hot Fuzz).
Of course (since this is a British film and you need to be able to actually understand them) you have second-century Romans speaking the Queen’s English. This is hilarious in itself as it makes them sound like Londoners about a millennium before the word was even invented. Some of the dialogue is well written and genuinely hilarious. Said dialogue is punctuated by a lot of seemingly anachronistic swearing (I don’t know how often the Romans said “fuck” and “shit” but I bet it wasn’t a lot), which adds to the unintentional hilarity.
Adding to the atmosphere of the film are the impressive sets and locations, such as the Roman forts and the mountains in Scotland. Suiting the Roman theme of the film, there are also a lot of battles and gore, with director Neill Marshall not skimping on the blood. As axes fly, blood sprays with a gush usually reserved for wounds inflicted by serial killers. I saw a man’s head basically explode by being shoved into a tree and another guy lost his head in a rather graphic fashion. Well, I say he lost his head — it actually got cleaved in half. Horizontally.
There is some good directing work in evidence here, which is most obvious in the battle scenes and the camera angles, which look like they were stolen from Lord Of The Rings and contrived to make the enemy camp look like it could be wiped out with a hand grenade. (It would’ve added to the funny banter if one of them said “A grenade…my empire for a hand grenade!”)
The DVD has the customary special features, with a commentary track from the director, as well as deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and outtakes (which are only slightly funny). The disc also contains five featurettes about the filmmaking process, such as where the idea came from and the work that goes into the special effects. (And the blood. Oh, so much blood.)
If you like more violence than you can shake a spear at (most blokes do), lots of anachronistic swearing, and if you liked 300, then this is the film for you. To paraphrase Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” Provided us with a blood-filled, reasonably entertaining movie, that’s what.