'Northmen — A Viking Saga': Film Review
A group of Vikings find themselves battling the forces of a Scottish king in Claudio Fah's sword-clanging actioner.
Although there's a noticeable absence of raping and pillaging, fans of the History Channel's Vikings could do worse than watch Claudio Fah's big-screen take on the raider genre while waiting for that hit show's 2016 fourth season. Lavishly staged and beautifully photographed, Northmen — A Viking Saga features enough energetic sword clanging to satisfy its target audience, although they're more likely to catch it on VOD than in its limited theatrical release.
The simple plotline — Vikings don't really lend themselves to complexity — involves a group of ragtag warriors led by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper, whose bulging biceps suggest he pumped iron before every take) who make a wrong turn at sea and wind up shipwrecked on the Scottish shore. After reluctantly climbing up a sheer mountain cliff — "I'm a warrior, not a climber," one quite reasonably complains — they encounter Inghean (Charlie Murphy), the beautiful princess daughter of a Scottish king, whom they take hostage.
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The naturally concerned king (Danny Keogh) sends his mercenaries, known as the "Wolfpack," in pursuit. They're led by the menacing Hjorr (Ed Skrein), who demonstrates his sadistic tendencies by shoving one of his hapless underlings into a roaring fire.
"Was that really necessary?" the king asks, apparently ignorant of B-movie cliches.
Meanwhile, the Vikings, who do an awful lot of quarreling among themselves, encounter a Christian monk (Ryan Kwanten of True Blood, affecting a posh accent), who seems to have studied Shaolin martial arts techniques far more than the Bible. He joins up with the Vikings who, although initially resistant, eventually warm up to their new comrade in arms.
"He's not so bad … for a Christian," one admits.
The inevitable violent mayhem ensues, with chaotic battle sequences occurring with tedium-inducing regularity. Presumably compensating for budgetary constraints, director Fah presents them with frenzied editing that renders the action virtually incomprehensible.
Oh, and along the way Inghean, who apparently possesses soothsaying abilities, falls in love with the hunky Asbjorn, who also happens to be the most clean-shaven of the bunch.
Featuring such sequences as a harrowing walk across a rickety bridge — as if there were any other kind in those days — and the Vikings' climactic leap off a tall cliff that makes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid seem like wimps, the film manages to wind down the action in an efficient 97 minutes. Let's be grateful for small things.
Production: Elite Filmproduktion, Jumping Horse Film, Two Oceans Production
Cast: Tom Hopper, Ryan Kwanten, Ken Duken, Charlie Murphy, Ed Skrein, Anatole Taubman, Johann Hegg
Director: Claudio Fah
Screenwriters: Mattias Bauer, Bastian Zach
Producers: Ralph S. Dietrich, Karin G. Dietrich, Daniel Holtschi, Frank Kaminski, Ulrich Stiehm, Marco Del Bianco, Gishelher Venzke, Bertha Spieker
Director of photography: Lorenzo Senatore
Production designers: Shane Bunce, Tom Hannam
Editor: Adam Recht
Costume designers: Moira Anne Meyer, Riccarda Merten-Eicher
Composer: Marcus Trumpp
Casting: Kelly Valentine Hendry, Victor Jenkins
Rated R, 97 minutes