The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features


LLLLLadies and Gentlemen!!!!

In the red corner, weighing a combined one million pounds, the Roman Legions!!!! And in the blue corner, weighing approximately a combined 670,000 pounds, the Germanic Hordes!! And now, LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!

And so begins the Hack 'em/Slash 'em epic, Gladiator.

Gladiator tells the story of Maximus (wasn't that a joke name in one of the Monty Python movies?), a reluctant Roman general who, through the evil corruption of the evil Emperor, is sent to be reluctantly executed. Naturally he manages to reluctantly survive the execution and so returns home to find his wife and child slaughtered. Then he's reluctantly captured by slavers. Finally, he becomes a reluctant gladiator, reluctantly killing others in the ring for the pleasure of the audience. Meanwhile, he reluctantly dreams of avenging himself against the not so reluctantly evil Emperor.

This is a good movie. It could have been a great movie, but it was about 45 minutes too long. For some unknown reason, the director inserted sections of dialogue and character development in between periods of bloody mayhem. WHAT WAS HE THINKING??? This is a SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER, the first of the new millennium! We don't want to watch some chick weep over her tragic fate, we wanna see people lop off heads!

In the end, the main problem with this movie is that the lopping-off-of-heads factor (LOOHF) is too low. Sure there are a ton of fights, I counted 7 main battle sequences, but the movie's 2 1/2 hours long!!! That works out to one good battle sequence every 21 minutes, and that ain't cutting it. For a movie to really grip me, it has to a have a LOOHF of at least 1 every 13 minutes. So this movie needs more fights, or less random plot stuff.

Not that this is a total loss. The fights are brutal. People are sliced and diced to the extreme, and the survivors have some seriously evil wounds. You got your spears, your swords, your chariots, your flails, your flaming arrows and your man-eating tigers. And from an educational standpoint, all the kiddies in the audience agreed that being a slave forced to fight to the death would suck, unless you really kicked some serious ass and were able to save Rome - then it would be pretty cool.

Near as I can tell, gladiator fights were Rome's version of Professional Wrestling. You got your good guys and bad guys, and they're all treated like rock stars, and eventually they fight. Of course, Professional Wrestling is just a bunch of pansy-assed wussies when compared to the gladiators. If The Rock has a bad night, he might misplace a fake boot to the head and look a little silly. If Maximus has a bad night, he's fertilizer.

But Mr. Critic, you say. This is an epic! More than a repeating series of battles, it tells an epic tale of good and evil. Yeha, yeah, yeah, whatever. It's grand. It's sweeping. Maximus the Gladiator Man (a character they call 'The Spaniard' who is played by Australian Russell Crowe with a mediocre British accent) is a tragic figure. He cries. Sissy. Then he kills. Studly. Then he cries again. Sissy. There's a woman in the mix, she's pretty tragic. There's the tragic death of the Kindly old Emperor. There's the tragic tale of the former gladiator who loves the lure of the crowd. And there's the tragic tale of all the other gladiators who don't kick quite as much ass as Maximus the Mighty Ass-Kicker, and so are doomed to die, more often than not by having their heads lopped off in battle, which is tragic.

This movie stands tall above all the other Roman gladiator movies coming out these days because of the star. Russell Crowe is a big, bad stud. He broods. He grunts. He grimaces. Basically, it's his world - we just live in it. If he wants to swing his sword through the air, you get out of the way or discover a drastic way to lose weight, one arm at a time. He fit really well into this time period, and I'm thinking he should continue to make movies in this genre and become the next Charlton Heston.

When everything is added up, Gladiator ends up with 3 3/4 Babylons. The bloodfest is worth that much easily, but it could have been so much more.

Editor's Note:

Russell Crowe=Charlton Heston? Oh, that's right. The SMC is the guy who said "Kevin Costner should stick to post-apocalyptical epics." in an earlier (pre-me as his editor) review. Actually, forget the Gladiator review. I've got bigger things on which to concentrate - "apocalyptical" isn't even in my on-line dictionary.

Rated: R
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris and The Grand Splendor of Rome.

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