August 30, 2007

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The Last Legion (PG-13)
Colin Firth plays a sword fighting Mr. Darcy who takes time out from making the last stand of the Roman empire and saving the last male heir in Julius Caesarís line to flirt with the swashbuckling Aishwarya Rai in the silly yet highly enjoyable The Last Legion.

Hokey St. Crispinís Day speeches; expert fighters who, surprise, turn out to be anachronistically kick-ass women, hints of the Arthurian legends; the return of†Romeís Lucius Vorenus (even if he is playing a barbarian this time) ó The Last Legion features every cheesy period action movie clichť, including Ben Kingsley, who isnít at all choosy about his roles but is very prolific.

Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster, sort of a poor manís Freddie Highmore) is a tiny little preteen Caesar who isnít exactly thrilled about taking the crown because of the fruit-fly-like lifespans of the recent Caesars. Well, at least the kid is smart ó on the night of his coronation, the barbarian Odoacer (Peter Mullan) sends his men, led by Wulfila (Kevin McKidd, better known as Luscius Vorenus, terror of the Aventine) to the castle to kill all the guards and capture the lilí emperor.

Aurelius (Firth) is the leader of the guards charged with protecting the mini leader. Once the fighting begins, though, heís knocked out (and, politely, the Goths donít bother to kill him). When he comes to, he learns of Romulusí fate and decides to go rescue him. A well-connected senator (John Hannah) gets him assistance from the eastern empire in the form of a warrior buddy to help with the rescuing and a promise of sanctuary.

After a couple of skirmishes, Aurelius comes to respect the warrior and then he catches the warrior (who until this time has worn a mask) bathing and then (cue the burlesque music) he really respects the warrior. Her name is Mira (Rai) and she doesnít let being a girl get in the way of taking down half a dozen enemy goons single-handedly. Aurelius and Mira and a bunch of people that arenít involved in a campy love story and therefore arenít interesting rescue Romulus and his teacher Ambrosinus from the Goths and then head to Britannia, home of the last potentially loyal-to-baby-Caesar Roman legion and, by the way, the birthplace this nifty sword Romulus finds that has the words ďblah blah blah e-blah s-blah blah-caliberĒ written on them. Hey, ďe-something caliberĒ; that sounds familiar.

Itís an Arthurian prequel!

What a lousy movie, I thought in this filmís opening scenes full of narration and exposition followed by some cutesy stuff where Romulus and Aurelius meet but the solider doesnít know that the kid is his boss.

What a lousy movie! Weee! ó I thought this when the Goths showed up, all pushy and over-acting. And when Firth, despite his Roman armor and weaponry, started to act all stammery and flustered, like he was starring in Diary of Bridgetus of the Jonii. And when Ben Kingsley, well, when Ben Kingsley did anything because that man could give Al Pacino a run for his scenery chewing money.

The Last Legion is moronic and cheesy and half-baked and so very much fun. Itís swords and archers, speeches and bedroom eyes, prophesies and McKidd wearing bad stage makeup. Itís a gloriously silly bit of action fluffery that is merely masquerading as a mediocre period flick. B-

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence. Directed by Doug Lefler and written by Jez and Tom Butterworth from a story by Carlo Carlei, Peter Rader and Valerio Manfredi, The Last Legion is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by The Weinstein Company.