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Category: Attila Reviews
Article Date: January 29, 2001 | Publication: Daily News (New York) | Author: ERIC MINK DAILY NEWS TV CRITIC

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ATTILA 1 1/2 StarsTuesday and Wednesday, 9 p.m., USA Once in a great while, a TV film comes along that sets a new standard in its field. "Attila" is not one of those - unless we're talking about Unintentionally Funny, Pseudo-Historical, Cheesy Action Epics, in which case "Attila" ranks right up there.

You wouldn't normally expect a lot of humor in a film about one of history's most savage conquerors, a guy who united feuding nomadic tribes of Huns in the fifth century, swept murderously across western Asia into Europe and nearly brought down an ailing Roman Empire.

But in the clutches of screenwriter Robert Cochran and director Dick Lowry, the story of Attila becomes something of an action soap opera with just a hint of Monty Python.

Attila (Gerard Butler) is a hotheaded warrior who's happy as a clam tearing through enemy villages on horseback, slashing through the heads, limbs and torsos of the slow-afoot.

Two things happen to alter the course of Attila's life:

* While out on a routine pillaging, Attila falls for a feisty redhead named N'Kara (Simmone Jade MacKinnon) whose family he has just - nothing personal - slaughtered. This sets up a confrontation with his half-brother, Bleda (Tommy Flanagan).

* A wily Roman general, Flavius Aetius (Powers Boothe), stops by the steppe one day to shore up an alliance with Attila's uncle, King Rua (Steven Berkoff). He takes a shine to Attila and persuades him to take a Roman holiday.

While in Rome, Attila is seduced by Honoria (Kirsty Mitchell), a sister of wimpy emperor Valentinian (Reg Rogers). Aetius takes time to tutor Attila in the fine Roman arts of lying, cheating and deceiving.

Tying these story strands together is Galen (Pauline Lynch), a woman who has had a crush on Attila since they were little kids playing in the smouldering ashes of sacked villages. Galen became a fortuneteller when she grew up, with an accuracy rate considerably higher than your average TV weathercaster. Even so, Attila seems to be the only Hun who pays any attention to the little prophet with the mud-caked dreadlocks.

All this "Meanwhile, back in Rome; meanwhile, back at Hun headquarters" stuff makes you long for some Big Battles, but "Attila" fails to deliver the goods.

Filmed in Lithuania (watch for the midwife with the Bela Lugosi accent), location scouts must have worked hard to find such visually dull countryside. And the battles themselves resemble what "Braveheart" might have looked like had it been shot on the budget of a "Xena" episode.

"Attila" press materials, meanwhile, tout the film's use of special effects "to make 500 people look like 3,000." The special effects must have been really special; it never looks like there are more than about 50 people running around, yelling and waving their nerdy-looking swords.

It would be a good idea to let this "Attila" ride on by without stopping.

Copyright 2001 Daily News, L.P.


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