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13TH WARRIOR

SYNOPSIS:
It's the 10th century; the beginning of the Middle Ages. Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) a Muslim diplomat-cum-poet, has been banished from his homeland after dallying indiscreetly with the wrong woman. One day he happens upon a motley group of sword-wielding Nordic neanderthals who are about to set sail to the aid of a small kingdom being terrorised by a tribe of head-hunting barbarians. Bowing to pressure from both his wizened chaperone Melchisideck (Omar Sharif) and the warriors themselves, Ibn reluctantly agrees to become the rescue mission's thirteenth member. In the end, with the marauders vanquished and the Norsemen all but decimated, Ibn emerges from the carnage ready to wear the mantle of the warrior he never thought he would or could be.

"Though you won't find The Thirteenth Warrior listed on any critic's top ten list or alongside "date movie" titles, as far as medieval action adventure epics are concerned, they don't come more proficient than this one. And while one must concede that the film owes its existence to the considerable power an author of Michael Crichton's stature is capable of wielding (the film is based on his obscure 1976 novel, Eaters Of The Dead, and he is one of the producers), it also proves that in the hands of a talented action craftsman - in this case, John (Die Hard) McTiernan - even the hoariest cliche is ripe for reinvention. By dint of its subject matter, blood and gore may well be the film's prime leitmotifs, but McTiernan's calculated mayhem aspires to grander dimensions. By focusing on the grim efficiency the thirteen fearless warriors bring to their mission, the film emerges as a surprisingly evocative paean to what we (as young boys) once perceived to be the essential portrait of a larger than life, bona fide hero. In Kurosawa's classic it was Mifune's tragic samurai; here it's Vladimir Kulich's Buliwyf. Despite solid work from Banderas and several other unfamiliar but well-chosen faces, it is Kulich's haunting performance which makes The Thirteenth Warrior a real Saturday afternoon popcorn treat."
Leo Cameron

"What is it about the sword-wielding centuries that prove irresistible to filmmakers, especially in the 90s? Perhaps every medieval adventure since Braveheart's phenomenal success is a footnote to Braveheart. A few Joan of Arcs and King Arthurs later, we have Antonio Banderas as The 13th Warrior, replete with his surfeit of stone-faced expressions. This is actually an imagined progression of Michael Crichton's 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead, fictionally continuing the adventures of Ahmed in bloody 10th century Scandinavia (filmed in British Columbia). Early on, much is made of the fact that Ahmed, who speaks English, can't understand the language of his fellow warriors. He somehow manages to master Viking by simply "listening to them speak." Presto, everyone suddenly speaks English, and Banderas becomes the least articulate character. It foreshadows The 13th Warrior's underlying problem. With his heavy Spanish accent, heavier eye-liner, and Armani-clad chain-mail armour, Banderas doesn't stand up as a hero. Maybe Crichton and action director John McTiernan figured this out part way through, as the Viking counterparts, particularly Herger the Joyous (Dennis Storhoi) - a fearless clever line-backer type warrior given several overly heroic scenes - are raised as body-on-the-line brutes. Thus Banderas is mostly left unscathed (bar a few face scratches, poor thing) as the quietly spoken brains-trust. He plots a raid in which the warriors hunt down the enemy's tribal matriarch - a badly dressed Cher look-a-like - and the source of their power. Even then, beneath the roars and growls and fanfares, there's a monosyllabic screenplay swallowed by the engulfing noise of Jerry Goldsmith's routine score, a symphonic equivalent of heavy metal. Besides the poorly judged casting of Mr Melanie Griffith, what a waste it was to have the fabulous Omar Sharif disappear after the opening scenes. Even he may have made a better 13th Warrior, but I doubt he'd wear the eye-liner. To give it its due, The 13th Warrior will quench even the bloodthirstiest of the genre's fans, and Banderas is thankfully denied a love interest despite hints from Queen Weilew (Diane Venora). The 13th Warrior?...unlucky for some."
Shannon J. Harvey

"Sitting through The 13th Warrior is something akin to playing a high graphic computer game without having hold of the controls, as though a young boy who knows all the 'cheats' is showing us what happens in the end without any real engagement on our behalf. If it were such a game it would be a combination of Myst and a high adventure product. Unfortunately, much like a lot of these games, the audience has no idea where we are for a great deal of the time, no idea who the enemy is, and no idea why the fights are happening in the first place. But we do have lots of different 'worlds' we visit, the odd mystery to solve, and a choice of weapons. We also have a performance from Antonio Banderas that would lose out in an awards race to any character from Warcraft or any other game for that matter. As we see the world through his eyes, this is not a good thing. By about a third of the way through the film, the audience can't help laughing as he solves a strategic problem. It goes like this: blank look inward, blank look forward, looks to the horizon eyes narrowing, speaks the solution. Still, he looks good. Director John McTiernan (Die Hard, The Hunt For Red October) and producer Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, ER) have both done far better. It might appeal to Banderas groupies and those who idealise a bikie culture, but basically it's a mish mash of a film whose budget could have been better spent."
Lee Gough



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

CAST: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif, Vladimir Kulich, Diane Venora, Dennis Storhoi

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

PRODUCER: John McTiernan, Michael Crichton, Ned Dowd

SCRIPT: William Wisher and Warren Lewis (Based on Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Menzies Jr A.C.S.

EDITOR: John Wright A.C.E.

MUSIC: Jerry Goldsmith

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wolf Kroeger

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 2, 2000

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