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Overall Rating
2.96

Awesome: 13.04%
Worth A Look: 13.04%
Just Average34.78%
Pretty Crappy34.78%
Sucks: 4.35%

2 reviews, 11 user ratings


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Beowulf & Grendel
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Even Grendel's mom deserves better than this."
2 stars

I will cheerfully admit that it has been a long time since I have actually sat down and read the legendary epic poem “Beowulf”–I tend to be a firm believer in the Woody Allen line about never taking a college class where it is required reading–but I am fairly certain that the actual poem is bereft of such deathless lines as “Christ–I’ve heard of him...you know anything about trolls” or the instant classic admonition “Beowulf–it’s a f------ troll!” Nevertheless, Sturla Gunnarsson’s adaptation “Beowulf & Grendel” gives us those very lines (and others just as good or bad, depending on your viewpoint) and the result is of the most ridiculous films of any stripe to come along in a long time. Imagine a cross between a serious version of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the immortal Lee Majors Viking epic “The Norsemen” and you’ll come up with something close to this film–the kind of half-assed lunacy that one normally associates with the ouvre of Uwe Boll.

As the film opens, a mysterious creature is laying siege to the land ruled by King Hrothgar (Stellan Skarsgard) and violently picking off his soldiers without mercy or warning. With Hrothgar a drunken and quivering wreck and his men lining up to be baptized in a desperate effort to save themselves from what they presume to be a wrathful curse brought on by practitioners of this new thing called Christianity, there is only one man left who might be able to stand up to the monster and restore order–the legendary warrior Beowulf (Gerard Butler). Beowulf sets off to hunt down the creature but is perplexed to discover that it seems to be a creature of flesh and blood and that it doesn’t seem willing to fight him–only those closely connected to Hrothgar himself. After meeting with local witch/whore/psychic/outcast Selma (Sarah Polley), Beowulf discovers that the creature is a troll named Grendel (Ingvar Sigurdsson) and that there is a very specific intent and purpose behind his attacks on Hrothgar.

Evidently, Gunnarsson’s idea was to make a small-scale epic that told the classic tale of war and revenge in a manner that would make it seem more like the actual events that would one day inspire the horrific excesses of the poem. (Of course, the late-inning appearance of Grendel’s mother does suggest that he has some supernatural elements within him after all.) At the same time, he could it as a springboard to comment on contemporary issues, especially in the way that the fearsome Grendel is portrayed less as a slavering monster and more as someone who is pushed into violence as a way of getting revenge specifically on those who wronged him in the past. And by staging the material in a more low-key and realistic manner, it would allow him to get away with making a film that has the trappings of a sword-and-sorcery epic without having to rely on the spectacular special effects and intricate action choreography that usually dominate such genre offerings.

In theory, this approach is sort of interesting in the manner of a late-night college bull session held over a few glasses of mead but Gunnarsson’s film is so ridiculous that it appears that he directed the entire film over a few dozen glasses of same. The “realistic” dialogue is hilariously incongruous, the fight scenes, though interesting in the way that they largely eschew special effects, are fairly inept and Gerard Butler, the extra-bland actor that you probably forgot appeared in “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Tomb Raider 2,” is so lifeless and wan as the heroic Beowulf that you keep waiting for him to get killed off so that the real hero can finally appear. And yet, even though he may be the single most boring actor working today, the film’s failure isn’t entirely Butler’s fault–Gunnarsson somehow managed to cast real actors like Skarsgard and Polley and even they wind up coming off as nothing more than talented performers standing around in uncomfortable clothes speaking ridiculous and weirdly foul-mouthed dialogue.

Aside from some nice Icelandic scenery, “Beowulf & Grendel” is a ludicrous botch recommended only for the heartiest of bad-film fanatics–such people will probably bust a gut while watching it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12807&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/14/06 00:04:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2006 Fantastic Fest series, click here.

User Comments

2/08/14 Charles Tatum Very weird adaptation; can't decide if it's a joke or not 3 stars
6/25/10 Beowulf The movie lacked some action in there.It sucks!! 2 stars
5/02/09 feolindo Visually stunning. Modern obscenities a distraction. Polley miscast. Enjoyable overall. 4 stars
10/21/07 Jack Christiansen A few inconsistencies but perfectly watch-able Very Refreshing!! 4 stars
11/17/06 balrog If you like the usual hollywood drivel, don't watch this film. 4 stars
10/06/06 CRAP This movie was a piece of crap. Nothing good at all 1 stars
9/28/06 ES The Troll should have been CGI, the accents bogged down the dialogue and it was too slow! 2 stars
9/13/06 bettapugnax Something refreshing 5 stars
6/11/06 Blackbrain Inconstant language and accents, dull cinematography. Nothing new. 3 stars
12/04/05 ALEXANDRIA THIS ONE WILL CAST A SPELL ON YOU!!! 5 stars
12/04/05 Teri S I saw this movie at the VIFF, it was well worth the five hour drive to get there.. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  16-Jun-2006 (R)
  DVD: 26-Sep-2006

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  N/A




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