Centurion would do well to go the way of the Rome’s Ninth Legion and disappear. This 100 minute bloodbath experiments with just as many ways to dismember and dispatch with a person and is shot in muted tones so as to emphasize the lusty vermillion of blood, spilt, splattered, and sprayed.

Though it purports to be an imagined account of the the missing legion’s demise, it is really just one fevered chase through the hills and dales of Scotland. The movie opens with a bound and barechested Michael Fassbender tumbling down a snowy bank. He is Quintus Dais, the lone survivor of an attack by the Picts, a nasty lot characterized by their wild hair and indecorous taste for bloodletting.

Meanwhile, the Romans, who are no models of gentlemanly warfare (if such thing exists), mobilize their Ninth in order to eliminate the Pictish threat. They come across Dais, and he joins their ranks. Nothing prepares them for giant rolling fireballs, however, and the legion is nearly wiped out. The Picts capture General Titus Flavius Virilus (a snarling Dominic West), which prompts the remaining seven survivors to mount a rescue. They manage to creep into the Pict camp, but the consequences send them running further into enemy territory.

There are nods to modern day conflicts – Iraq and Afghanistan, but these are underdeveloped by writer director Neil Marshall, purposely or pure coincidence. Regardless, the main problem is the lack of script. I am not talking about Olga Kurylenko’s character Etain, the mute and savage Pict warrior who looks like a smoky eye makeup tutorial gone amok. Centurion is so concerned with skewering heads, and really every other body part, that it fails to give life to its muscular cast, which includes David Morrissey, JJ Feild, Riz Ahmed, and Liam Cunningham. As they dart through the forest and are dispensed with one by one, it is hard to find any room for sympathy to accompany the primary feeling of disgust at each soldier’s manner of death. When someone does pause to speak, he is either dropping a linguistically misappropriated f-bomb or grunting a vague non-observation, such as, “Etain, like the wolf, has learned to hunt from birth….Now she hunts Romans; now we are the prey.” The deepest thing you will find here are the hatchet wounds.

Released: 2010
Prod: Michael London
Dir: Thomas Bezucha
Writer: Thomas Bezucha
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Liam Cunningham, David Morrissey, JJ Feild, Noel Clarke, Riz Ahmed, Ulrich Thomsen, Dimitri Leonidas, Imogen Poots, Dave Legeno, Paul Freeman, Rachael Stirling, Tom Mannion, Lee Ross
Time: 97 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2014