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Gerard Butler gives a well-rounded depiction in the title role of "Attila the Hun."

Category: Attila Reviews
Article Date: January 28, 2001 | Publication: Ventura County Star | Author: Dave Mason; TV Star editor

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UNIVERSAL CITY -- "Attila the Hun," which debuts this week on the USA cable network, does a strong job of showing how the Roman Empire delayed its demise while unwittingly setting the stage for the Dark Ages. The two-part miniseries airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

Star Gerard Butler makes Attila three-dimensional, basically a contrast between ruthless determination and nobility. Viewers will see Attila's strength and vulnerability.

But the most impressive acting is by Powers Boothe ("Tombstone" and "Joan of Arc"), who makes Roman General Flavius Aetius a complex scoundrel. On one hand, no one, not even the Romans, can trust him. On the other hand, he might be the only Roman who can save the empire.

Attila, meanwhile, knows the future of the Huns depends on uniting with other tribes and eventually attacking Rome.

"The Romans have done great things, but their time is past," Attila said. "What they have done, we can do. We should rule the world."

We'll never know how close Butler's characterization is to the real Attila, and it's a safe bet, considering the medical and hygiene conditions of the times, that the real Attila wasn't as handsome as Butler, who starred in "Dracula 2000" and "Mrs.Brown." Call it creative license.

But Butler's portrayal is much more realistic than past Hollywood depictions of such warriors.

In many ways, from the romantic storylines to the big battle scenes, "Attila the Hun" is a lot like Mel Gibson's "Brave Heart." It proved to be impressive on the big screen as the stars and crew gathered with the media during a recent premiere party at Universal Citywalk's Cineplex Odeon.

The miniseries was shot on location in Lithuania, a good choice for this story of the triangle of conflicts between the Huns, the Visgoths and a quickly fading Roman Empire. Will Attila and Aetius become allies or enemies? That answer would help determine the fate of the Huns and Romans.

Director Dick Lowry and writer Robert Cochran make the story move at just the right pace. And Cochran does a great job of showing how Aetius manipulated Romans and Huns alike.

"Attila" also stars Simmone Jade MacKinnon ("Baywatch Hawaii") as N'Kara, Attila's greatest love, and Ildico, the woman who reminded him of her. Pauline Lynch is incredible as the mystical soothsayer Galen. She makes Galen magical and human, powerful and powerless, in a performance I'll never forget.

Tommy Flanagan ("Gladiator"and "Braveheart") plays Bleda, Attila's vengeful brother, and Tim Curry ("The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and Stephen King's "It") is Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius. Curry is wonderfully over-the-top, but not too much so.

Reg Rogers shows the shallowness of Valentinan, the emperor of the Western Roman Empire, and "Attila the Hun" makes it clear Valentinan wasn't up to the job. But I wish Rogers had given Valentinan a little more dimension. Even shallow characters have a bit of depth, and Rogers never leads viewers to it.

Alice Krige, known as the Borg Queen in "Star Trek:First Contact," gives a convincing performance as Placidia, Valentinan's powerful mother. But Cochran's screenplay should have devoted a few minutes toward exploring the relationship between Valentinan and Placidia. That relationship, along with the relationship between Attila and Aetius, helped to shape the future of Western civilization. And who knows how far we would have gone today if the Dark Ages never had happened?

Copyright 2001 Ventura County Star


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