DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
VALHALLA RISING (director/writer: Nicolas Winding Refn; screenwriter: Roy Jacobsen; cinematographer: Morten Soborg; editor: Mat Newman; music: Peter-Peter/Peter Kyed; cast: Mads Mikkelsen (One Eye), Maarten Stevenson (the Boy), Gordon Brown (Hagen), Andrew Flanagan (Gudmond), Gary Lewis (Kare), Gary McCormack (Hauk), Alexander Morton (Barde), Jamie Sieves (Gorm), Ewan Stewart (Eirik), Matthew Zajac (Malkolm); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Johnny Andersen/Bo Ehrhardt/Henrik Danstrup; Objectifs Films; 2009-UK-in English)

 
"Filled with brutality."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Pusher"/"Bronson"/"Bleeder") was born in Denmark and moved at 8 to NYC, only to return to his birthplace to attend high school. His medieval Viking odyssey story is filled with brutality (from a disembowelment to a skull smashed by a rock to a throat slashed by an arrow, among a few of the violent incidents depicted). It has six chapters, Wrath, Silent Warrior, Men of God, The Holy Land, Hell and The Sacrifice.

One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a mute warrior who has been held captive in a cage by the pagan chieftain Bardie (Alexander Morton) in Scotland and forced into fighting a series of death-matches while chained. The slave is befriended by a slave boy (Maarten Stevenson), who serves as his voice--telling us I think “He’s from hell,” yet the lad doesn't know where his home is. The slave warrior kills his captors and escapes with the boy, only to go on a fog-laden boat journey looking for the Holy Land, with Christian Vikings, newly converted, who are going to battle in the Crusades for the glory of their God. When the fog lifts, the Vikings discover they have not landed in the Holy Land but in the New World they perceive as Hell and all meet their fate in a brutal way by the pagans, including One-Eye. In his sacrifice, imitating the Christian sacrifice of their Lord, One-Eye discovers his true self (check out the title if you're not sure of who he's supposed to be).

Hardly a history lesson, the clumsy arty actioner is dragged down further by all its unappealing violence, its misplaced religious theme, its thin plot line and the bloody horrible acting (including the mute performance by Danish icon Mikkelsen). For those cult film lovers who dig bad head trips and feel all the better for coming through a nightmare and wonder what it would be like living in a heathen dominated world, this one has the vision to take you to all those dark places but no further. 

REVIEWED ON 12/27/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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