A one-eyed warrior creates a little mayhem in medieval Europe in Valhalla Rising, a movie that features the crusades and Vikings and still nearly put me to sleep.
We first meet One Eye (Mads Mikkelson), as our protagonist is eventually called, when he’s being held captive by some tattooed, let’s say Norse tribe in either northern Europe or Scotland (the movie is shot in Scotland, says Wikipedia, but I suspect the story is meant to be in the general Scandinavia region). Like a dog sent to the yard after pooping on the living room rug, One Eye is seen wearing a collar and chained to a pole. Often, he’s pitted against other chained and surly-looking dudes for the entertainment and gambling pleasure of a small crowd of men. His prize for besting these other fighters seems to be occasional food and a bath in a pond, which turns out to be a real treat when, during his bath, he finds an arrowhead on the bottom of the pond and uses it to kill the heck out of everyone involved in the whole collar-chain situation.
Everyone but a small boy, who we’ll call Boy (Maarten Stevenson), who survives One Eye’s attack and then follows him because if you’re a small Norse boy in the middle of Scandinavian Scotland what else are you going to do?
One Eye and Boy wander the misty hills until they come upon some Vikings who are also Christians and who are headed to “the Holy Land.” Again, it’s not as if they can go their own way and look for a Wal-Mart, where they can pick up some camping gear and snacks, so One Eye and Boy join the boat south, which gets stuck in a hellish mist. When the mist lifts, the men find themselves in fresh water floating near an unknown land.
It’s the Hudson River, maybe, or maybe it’s the Merrimack, and what the Vikings believe is hell is really, like, Lawrence or Lowell.
Insert your own joke here.
For a movie where lots of people die gruesome deaths, Valhalla Rising is surprisingly slow and drowsy. The boat ride across the Atlantic feels like it takes place in real time. The wandering around the hillside scenes — which could be filled with tension and foreboding — start to feel like a monotonous car ride. There is potential for spunky, Dark Ages action here but instead we get ponderous use of cinematography intercut with demonic-looking dream sequences. Except even that sentence sounds more exciting than what actually happens. C-
Not rated. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and written by Roy Jacobsen and Nicolas Winding Refn, Valhalla Rising is an hour and 30 minutes and distributed by IFC Films. The movie is available via Comcast On Demand.