John McTiernan's The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas (Arrow Recommends)

John McTiernan's The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas (Arrow Recommends)
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"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older and at times more obscure movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: A muslim poet (Antonio Banderas), banished from his village (he went for the wrong poon) winds up tagging with a horde of Vikings to battle a mysterious and deadly threat that is ravishing the land. Sharpen up that sword, it's head lopping time!

LOWDOWN: THE 13TH WARRIOR (WATCH IT HERE) was a tough show for John McTiernan and an odd experience for me. McTiernan shot the film in 1997, at the time it was called Eaters of the Dead (same name as the Michael Crichton book the flick is based on). Once McTiernan handed in his final cut, it went through the test screening process and got lambasted by the audiences. So re-shoots were in order, McTiernan said f*ck that shit, hence author Michael Crichton took over shot the extra coverage which pushed the release of the film by a year. The film was renamed The 13th Warrior, was finally pumped out in 1999 and failed critically and financially.

As for me, the first time I saw the film, I didn’t care for it. Years later all my buddies told me that I was high for not digging it and that I should give it another shot, I did – didn’t care for it again. Now this year my co-screenwriter on a sword movie brought it up and said that I should give it another shot. So I did and this time, YES, I finally got it and loved the bleep out of it. The late Rogert Ebert gave the film a 1.5 star on 4 and had this to say about it: “To extract the story from the endless scenes of action and carnage is more effort than it's worth.” And where the man sees this as a negative; to me that was a positive.

As opposed to Mr. Ebert, I managed to grasp the story (a wild take on the Old English poem Beowulf BTW) and although the film didn't stop and get DEEP on me to explore its characters inner turmoil or relationships, it gave me enough camaraderie between the men and "endless scenes of action/carnage" to make me a happy camper. At the end of the neck snap The 13th Warrior pimped just that: a slim story line that acted as the string that connected one action set piece to another AND another and so forth – and in my bubble of a world, nothing wrong with that! Armed with a badass score (by Jerry Goldsmith; Graeme Revell's initial score work was rejected post re-shoots), McTiernan’s often iconic framing (some bits reminded of PREDATOR), bang-on costume/set designs and lush cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr., this celluloid animal wound up being a jamboree of beheadings, arrow damage, stabbings and chopped off limbs with all kinds of potent horror imagery tagged to its gorgeous derriere!

And as the clock ticked forward on this one and the more we got to know about the “terror” that was afoot, the grislier, meaner and more epic the movie got. The astounding stunt work, the epic battle sequences, the slick locations (loved that cave) - all TOP NOTCH! Moreover, the flick had an astounding cast! Antonia Banderas was genius as the poet Muslim man who was tossed in with a group of Vikings. The motley crew of barbarians was affable with Vladimir Kulich in particular oozing of cool machismo as the leader of the pact Buliwyf (a play on Beowulf – get it?). And if that wasn’t enough, the final battle was preceded with one cool ass prayer that got my gut in a knot and yeah I’ll f*cking list it here:

“Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things. This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought; all we ought to have said, and have not said; all we ought to have done, and have not done; I pray thee God for forgiveness.”

Any drawbacks? Well I’ve always found that some of the fights were a tad chaotic in terms of coverage (too many close shots) and (too) tight editing. Some of the visual effects (boat in water) looked a tad crude by today’s standards as well. And yeah the story could have gone deeper, but then again, it’s a f*cking action/horror film, no time for to be or not to be over here! Too much damn slaying to do! ALL GOOD. In closing, if like me you dig movies that are set in a time when men were men, when conflict was resolved by the flash of a blade and when honor was high on the values chart, tap this one and have a blast! Sadly it has yet to get a Blu-Ray release in North America but you can still get the DVD, dirt cheap HERE!

Extra Tidbit: So have you seen this flick? If so, your thoughts? If not - SEE IT and get back to me!



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