From the Archive – Amazons and Gladiators (2001)

Inflicted by Zachary Weintraub
Patrick Bergin is in it.

Marcus Crassius (Bergin), having defeated Spartacus and got way too popular, gets banished to some obscure province, where he kills people just so he can feel good about himself. In one raid, he victimises a plucky child, then has her sold as a slave.

Flash forward 10 years, and the girl, Serena, and her friend Brianna have become a popular interpretive dance act. Then she kills a senator who tries to have his way with her, and they escape to join the Amazon freedom fighters in the woods. They train; Serena gets laid; there are some fights. Then our plucky heroines are captured trying to assassinate Crassius and forced to fight in the arena.

The Amazons bust in on the act, and Serena kills Crassius. Then she delivers a stirring speech about women’s rights, and goes off to destroy Rome, with the incidental aid of the Goths and the Huns.

What’s wrong with it?

Make no mistake: Even by my standards, this film is an execrable, dog turd of a movie. It’s like Xena without the class meets Gladiator without any of the talent.

Patrick Bergin plays Crassius – who seems to have traded Tony Curtis for Serena’s soppy tart of a sister when he stopped being Laurence Olivier – as the bastard love-child of Christopher Biggins and Chris Tarrant, only not as menacing. The Amazons – a curious mish-mash of talentless-but-busty English, American and Australian ‘actresses’ – ponce about in their battle-bras, showing such an incredible dearth of combat skill that they’d be screwed if the legions of Rome were any better.

Serena and Brianna are at times completely indistinguishable, save that Brianna sometimes has an English accent.

It’s entirely unclear which pissant backwater Crassius has been dumped in, for as much as anyone might care.

There’s gratuitous movie sex, and some half-hearted Hollywood sapphism that makes Lust for a Vampire look daring and interesting.

The acting is universally bad.

Oh yeah; and the entire film is ripped off from somewhere else. Examples include:

  • The opening massacre, where Serena is made to balance her mother on her shoulders, with a rope around her neck, is straight from Once Upon a Time in the West, less the harmonica and the talent.
  • Serena’s lover sacrificing himself rather than fight her is ripped off from Spartacus, except he doesn’t even have the gumption to take a run at Crassius while he’s doing it.
  • Towards the end, Brianna and Serena fake a fight and Brianna seems to be killed, so that Serena can get a chance to fight Crassius while Brianna frees the other gladiators. This is lifted liberally from The Quick and the Dead (which also has a ‘you have a chance to save your hanging relative’ scene, a la Once Upon a Time…), and moreover it’s a complete mystery to me where they hid the bladder of fake blood under her figure-hugging leather battle gear.
  • Half the script is boosted from Star Wars.

What’s right with it?

Bog all really.

Best bit?

Crassius decrees that Serena must continue fighting her lover until the hourglass is empty, otherwise they’ll both be shot. Serena smashes the hourglass, and points out that the glass is empty, to which Crassius pretty much ripostes by having her lover shot.

It’s not that good, but at least it gets shot of the scrawny, Shaggy-from-Scooby-Doo-alike love lack-of-interest. If only he’d shot Serena as well.

What’s up with…?

Oh, where to start?

  • Patrick Bergin’s Christopher Biggins impersonation? He grins his way through the movie, picking up and discarding random totty (and remember, this is Laurence Olivier’s character from Spartacus here; the gay one), and generally phoning it in, and when Patrick Bergin is phoning it in, you know youse in trouble.
  • The unidentified, highly cosmopolitan backwater province of Whereinthehell?
  • The Amazon battle-bra? I mean, we don’t know where they are, but it looks fairly nippy. In at least one scene, Serena is all shivery and cold, but doesn’t even close her coat.
  • In the scene where they fake Brianna’s stabbing, where is she supposed to have hidden that bladder?
  • Serena and Shaggy from Scooby Doo discussing how the Romans ripped off everything from Greece (including, it seems, their enemies; the Amazons)?

Ratings

Production values – Weak. The costumes are silly – very silly – the sets tacky, and the camerawork shoddy. Even the swords are all blatantly plastic, and everyone stabs under the cloak. When people are required to bleed, there is a trickle of blood, that apparently stains like red wine; no wonder a wineskin worked to fake a death. Even the final coup de grace on Crassius didn’t warrant any greater spending than a blood pack in Patrick Bergin’s hand. Everything about the production reeks of cheapness. 19

Dialogue and performances – This film rips off Star Wars dialogue, and makes it even more trite and pointless. It isn’t helped by the absolute woodenness of everyone in the film. Pretty much the entire cast seems chosen on the grounds of bra-size instead of acting ability; including Patrick Bergin. Absolute ‘worst performance ever’ award goes to the kid who plays Young Serena, who manages to make one yearn for the level of performance achieved by Jake Lloyd. 20

Plot and execution – Five monkeys, two typewriters; ten minutes. Actually; five monkeys, a glue stick, a copy of the script of Gladiator and a selection of cut-out quotes form Star Wars. The direction is everything that the material deserves. 20

Randomness – The whole damn film is so random. Marcus Crassius? Patrick Bergin as Christopher Biggins as Laurence Olivier as Marcus Crassius? It’s like the Comic Strip presents… gone horribly awry. The Amazons in general. The claim that the Amazons brought down the Roman Empire. The classically-educated slave dancer.
Help me; I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. 19

Waste of Potential – I’m in two minds on this rating. On the one hand, you don’t expect much from what is basically a Gladiator cash-in with more cleavage (and that’s just from Patrick Bergin). On the other, this falls so very far below even those low expectations, that a pretty decent score is earned. 18

Overall 96%

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