Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 6 of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival

report filed by Jason Shayer


Centurion is director Neil Marshall’s take on the legend of the Roman 9th Legion that had proudly marched up into Scotland and disappeared. In reality, they probably had their asses handed to them by the Picts. Their defeat was so devastating that some claim the Romans purged any further mention of the 9th Legion to avoid rebellion and embarrassment. And in reality here, the survivors were probably distributed through the other Roman forces in the North Britain. However, Marshall uses the epic setting and its rich history to flesh out this world and then lets the story unfold in its own manner.

Marshall doesn’t wait long to get into the action and really knows how to rev up the storyline. He’s well known for his brutal action scenes as seen in The Descent and Dog Soldiers. And he certainly doesn’t disappoint his fan in this film. Centurion features some spectacular fight scenes with some pretty wild kills.

The beautiful, sweeping visuals and cut scenes work well at first as they present yet another force of opposition that’s pitted against our protagonists. However, these cut scenes do become a bit repetitive and tiresome. The film itself is a straight-forward, historial, action-adventure pursuit story that stays the course with no real twists and turns. I think I felt a bit let down because it was screened at the After Dark Film Festival I was expecting something a bit more supernatural or twisted.

The only other complaint was how the antagonists were handled. More of a focus on them would have helped develop the story and would have generated more sympathy from the audience.

Centurion was a great ride and left me wondering if my shoes would stick to the floor with all the blood that was spilled!


Multi-talented cult director Philip Ridley returns to the big screen after 15 years and delivers a heavy and haunting film about a troubled youth who struggles to deal with a disfiguring birthmark on his face. He’s dwelt in the shadows his whole life to hide his disfigurement, but ultimately can’t hide from himself. He comes across what he believes to be a group of demons terrorizing his neighbourhood and is intrigued by them and the shadowy world they live in.

Like all of his films (The Reflecting Skin, The Passion of Darkly Noon), Heartless is beautifully shot and there’s no doubt of the involvement of his keenly photographic eye. Similarly to Centurion, the setting in Heartless, a modern urban London, played a strategic role in the film and conveys a heavy, almost imprisoning atmosphere. Ridley created a unique urban fantasy landscape that seems grimly futuristic.

At times, the film seemed a bit long and there were disjointed scenes that made you wonder what was going on and why they were included, but give full credit to the director for attempting some rather creative approaches to scenes. While the rush to end was a bit frantic as a sub-plot smashed into the main plot to help bring about the climax, the overall story and ending were powerful and will leave you shaken.

Heartless is a rich, dense, and deeply haunting film that will follow you home and stand just outside your door, waiting for you.

--Jason Shayer