The Last Legion

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NEW YORK -- Whether or not you appreciated the graphic comic book aesthetic of "300," there's no doubt that it took a fresh approach to the swords-and-sandals adventure genre. Such is not the case with "The Last Legion," which opened Friday without being screened for the press.

A lackluster and decidedly old-fashioned (in the worst way) attempt that is hardly likely to ride the wave of "300's" success at the boxoffice, the film probably will reach the video store shelves in record time.

The story is a fanciful adventure set in the final days of the Roman Empire, centering on young Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster). When his parents are murdered by evil barbarians led by Odoacer (a hirsute Peter Mullan) and he is taken captive, the loyal Aurelius (Colin Firth) sets off to rescue him, accompanied by his small band of legionnaires. Along the way, he finds an unlikely ally, and romantic interest, in the form of the beautiful warrior Mira (the ravishing Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai).

The inevitable series of elaborately choreographed battles, both intimate and large-scale, ensue, though the film's low budget and PG-13 rating prevent them from being either spectacular or particularly bloody. Indeed, in both in the fight and love scenes, the camera has a constant tendency to turn away from the action like a shrinking violet.

This being a story of ancient Rome, nearly the entire cast is naturally made up of British actors, including such talents as Kevin McKidd, John Hannah and Iain Glen, none of whom makes much of an impression. Coming off worst is Ben Kingsley, who plays the young boy's magical mentor with an affectionate regard for himself that is not transmitted to the viewer.

Poorly written, perfunctory in its execution and labored in its attempts at "Three Stooges"-style physical shtick comedy, "Last Legion" doesn't succeed on any level, least of all in its hapless attempt to craft itself as a sort of surprise prequel to "Excalibur."

THE LAST LEGION
The Weinstein Co.
Dino De Laurentiis Co., Ingenious Film Partners, Quinta Communications, Zephyr Films
Credits:
Director: Doug Lefler
Screenwriters: Jez & Tom Butterworth
Producers: Martha De Laurentiis, Raffaella De Laurentiis, Tarak Ben Ammar
Executive producers: Harvey Weinstein, James Clayton, Duncan Reid
Director of photography: Marco Pontecorvo
Production designer: Carmelo Argate
Music: Patrick Doyle
Co-producers: Chris Gurling, Philip Robertson, Taoufik Guiga, Lorenzo De Maio, Iveta Hrdlovicova
Costume designer: Paolo Scalabrino
Editor: Simon Cozens
Cast:
Aurelius: Colin Firth
Ambrosinus: Ben Kingsley
Mira: Aishwarya Rai
Odacer: Peter Mullan
Wulfilla: Kevin McKidd
Nestor: John Hannah
Romulus: Thomas Sangster
Orestes: Iain Glen
Demetrius: Rupert Friend: Batiatus: Nonso Anozie
Vatrenus: Owen Teale
Running time -- 101 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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