A scrappy group of Roman soldiers must fight a determined insurgency of Picts in northern Britain in Centurion, a delightful swords-and-arrows B-movie.
It’s the early ADs and Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbender) is the only survivor after the Pict, the blue-painted natives of northern Britain, attack a Roman fort. Because Quintas speaks their language, they let him hang around a bit — which helpfully gives him time to escape and join up with the Ninth Legion, a group of soldiers led by General Virilus (Dominic West) and given orders to crush the Pict rebellion once and for all.
Well, crushing does, in fact, occur but not in the manner the Romans were expecting. It is the Legion, all decked out with fancy helmets and eagle standards, that gets its overextended empire-building bum spanked. Soon, only the aforementioned scrappy band of soldiers is left and forced to run fast to stay ahead of Etain (Olga Kurylenko), a fierce female Pict warrior who has a serious score to settle with the Roman military. When Virilus is separated from these sword-wielding members of the ancient special forces, it’s up to Quintas to get the men back into solidly Roman controlled lands.
A sweeping score and a more recognizable cast separate this movie from the dark but also action-fun King Arthur, the 2004 film about Romans backing out of Britain that used bits of the Arthurian legend and a half-naked Keira Knightley to tell its very similar tale. Without the blockbuster trappings, this movie spends most of its time on the basics of an antiquity action movie, namely fight scenes, a bit of camaraderie and some sprinkles of romance. Here, we get not a Guinevere but a good Pict played by Imogen Poots — she’s all about natural medicine and knowing which mushrooms make a tasty soup.
Centurion is, if you’re lucky, the kind of breezy adventure film that makes its way into theaters in August. With its ever-so-slight nod to history but strong dedication to ass-kicking, Centurion is a nice bit of B-movie fun available right in your living room. B-
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, grisly images and language. Written and directed by Neil Marshall, Centurion is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed by Magnolia Pictures and is available via Comcast On Demand.