Beowulf & Grendel - moview review

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 10, 2006 | Publication: Winnipeg Sun | Author: JIM SLOTEK
Publication/Article Link:http://winnipegsun.com/Entertainment/Movies/2006/03/10/1480982-sun.html

Coppola was the most famous, but I suspect every filmmaker gets to play Col. Kurtz eventually.

Icelandic-Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson's mad folly is Beowulf & Grendel, a gamy retelling of the Anglo Saxon epic on what seems the least hospitable film location ever -- the bare cliffs of Iceland in the face of Arctic storms.

Let's just say the frost on the characters' breath is very real. Bring a sweater.

Some thoughts that occur while watching limbs fly and Dark Age Nordic warriors urinate from under their pelts:

- What this town really needs is a good mead hall.

- If upset Muslims went to this movie and saw the monster Grendel bowl with the heads of slaughtered Danes, they might find it a cathartic experience and move on.

- You can be forgiven if you come out of Beowulf & Grendel thinking Beowulf's Geats came from Scotland, since Gerard Butler's burr is stronger than Angus Crock's and Groundskeeper Willie's together. They are actually from what is now Sweden.

- This movie is certainly a lot more fun than my last exposure to Beowulf, which involved a tweedy British professor reading aloud in Olde English.

Driven by what could only be called mad Icelandic energy, Gunnarsson's Beowulf & Grendel is by turns stark, ludicrous and fascinating, with the odd dumb joke and anachronistic wisecracks leavening the earnestness.

It evokes -- as all Dark Age tales must -- the saw about life being "nasty, brutish and short."

And it injects shades of grey into the black-and-white of epic heroism.

As the movie opens, we see what's apparently a Bigfoot and his hirsute son chased across a barren field to the brink of a fjord. The dad is killed as the son hides, all but undiscovered.

The story picks up years later, as an adult Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson), who keeps his dad's head as a totem, screams his guttural vengeance cry across the bleak landscape. Down at the mead hall, drunken Danes are slaughtered stealthily under the nose of the inebriated King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard), as a mad priest raves about redemption.

So the call goes out to Beowulf, legendary hero, whose exploits are exclaimed at each introduction ("Here we go again," one of his men quips as he announces himself to a Dane scout).

Butler makes for a pleasingly ambivalent Beowulf, more concerned with his opponent's motivation than with simply hunting him down.

To that end, he befriends the local crazy witch Selma (Sarah Polley, whose Canadian accent is nails-on-a-blackboard among this lot).

Selma has the ability to foretell people's deaths and has a significant secret of her own.

Even with its quirky energy and limb hacking, there finally comes a point when the movie is in danger of succumbing to its own ambivalence.

Fortunately, that point receives timely treatment by amputation with a rusty sword.

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BEOWULF & GRENDEL

Sun Rating: 3 out of 5