×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Northmen: A Viking Saga’

Shipwrecked Nords battle medieval Scottish hordes in this respectable multinational actioner.

With:
Tom Hopper, Ryan Kwanten, Ken Duken, Charlie Murphy, Leo Gregory, James Norton, Darrell D’Silva, Mark Strepan, Richard Lothian, Danny Keogh, Ed Skrein, Anatole Taubman, Johan Hegg. (English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2290553/

Riding the coattails of various, mostly smallscreen medieval-combat chronicles, the English-language multinational production “Northmen: A Viking Saga” brings straightforward vigor to an uninventive but diverting tale of Norse warriors shipwrecked on hostile shores. There are no novel slants or plot twists in the script (by Austrian screen/genre-fiction writing duo Bastian Zach and Matthias Bauer) to render this bloody ninth-century adventure truly memorable. But helmer Claudio Fah’s pacey handling, a creditable if not especially starry cast (duly recruited mostly from hit cable skeins), and handsome locations (South Africa primarily filling in for Scotland) make it a respectable B-actioner. Having rolled out in various territories since October 2014, it opens July 31 at Arena Cinema in Los Angeles. U.S. theatrical prospects will be modest, improved upon by Aug. 11 VOD launch and subsequent distribution to other home formats.

A violent squall parts a band of Viking men from their seafaring vessel; those lucky enough to survive find themselves washed onto an unfamiliar coast. We eventually discover that this group led by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) was banished from home terrain after finding themselves on the wrong side of a royal coup. Their first challenge in this new land is climbing the sheer cliff that separates shoreline from the interior. That perilous exertion occasions the sole notable line (“I’m a warrior, not a climber!”) for Johan Hegg, the gravel-voiced lead singer for the veteran Norse mythology-inspired Swedish death-metal act Amon Amarth, whose character soon departs for Valhalla.

Once on top, the eight men hardly catch their breath before they’re confronted by armed soldiers on horseback. Though greatly outnumbered, the Vikings prove their mettle by felling nearly all these foes, who it turns out where guarding a wagon. Locked inside is Inghean (Charlie Murphy), a well-dressed young woman with a spitfire temperament. She informs them that they’re on Scottish soil, though it’s not until they find an unlikely ally in arse-kicking “cursed monk” Conall (“True Blood’s” Ryan Kwanten) that they realize she’s the daughter of King Dunchaid (Danny Keogh). The king dispatches a “wolfpack” of his fiercest soldiers to rescue her, little realizing that the scheming siblings in charge (Ed Skrein, Anatole Taubman) instead plan on killing her, thereby aiding their plot to seize the throne.

Thinking to gain a ransom for their captive and buy amnesty at Viking settlements to the south, our protags play cat-and-mouse with their pursuers, aided occasionally by Inghean’s premonitions. (However, her supernatural gifts seldom result in anything more advantageous than a yelped “They’re coming!” just moments before the bad guys attack.) Deaths by sword, ax, crossbow, spear and spike steadily whittle down both sides, and the capably staged violence proves visceral enough to earn “Northmen” its R rating without straying into gratuitous gore-for-gore’s-sake.

After a time there’s a certain monotony to this elemental chase narrative and its frequent bouts of hand-to-hand combat, with routine character writing and pedestrian dialogue providing little relief. But the cast is earnestly committed, and if there are a few too many hokey last-second rescues from certain doom, “Northmen” nevertheless rarely risks curdling into camp.

Tech and design contributions are all solid, topped by English d.p. Lorenzo Senatore’s attractive widescreen lensing of a story that takes place almost entirely outdoors. While the frequently splendid South African locations aren’t always convincing as substitutes, one plot development that might strain geographic belief actually shouldn’t: There really is quicksand in Scotland.

Film Review: 'Northmen: A Viking Saga'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, July 29, 2015. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production: (Switzerland-Germany-South Africa) An Anchor Bay Entertainment (in U.S.) release of an Ascot Elite Entertainment Group presentation of an Elite Filmproduktion, Jumping Horse Film and Two Oceans production. Produced by Ralph S. Dietrich, Karin G. Dietrich, Daniel Holtschi, Frank Kaminski, Ulrich Stiehm, Rolf Wappenschmitt, Marco Del Bianco, Giselher Venzke, Bertha Spieker.

Crew: Directed by Claudio Fah. Screenplay, Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Lorenzo Senatore; editor, Adam Recht; music, Marcus Trumpp; production designers, Shane Bunce, Tom Hannam; art director, Patrick O’Connor; set decorator, Henri Du Rand; costume designers, Moira Anne Meyer, Riccarda Merten-Eicher; sound (Dolby Digital), Greg Albert; sound designers, Markus Glunz, Peter Staubli; supervising sound editor, Glunz; re-recording mixer, Michael Riedmiller; stunt coordinator, Anthony Mo Marais; assistant directors, Andrew Weavind, Alwyn van den Heever; second unit director, Frank Kaminski; casting, Kelly Hendry Valentine, Victor Jenkins.

With: Tom Hopper, Ryan Kwanten, Ken Duken, Charlie Murphy, Leo Gregory, James Norton, Darrell D’Silva, Mark Strepan, Richard Lothian, Danny Keogh, Ed Skrein, Anatole Taubman, Johan Hegg. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Bob Berney

    Bob Berney to Leave Amazon Studios' Head of Marketing and Distribution Position

    Bob Berney, Amazon Studios’ head of marketing and distribution, is stepping down, Variety has confirmed. Berney was hired by Amazon in 2015 and recently reached the end of his four-year contract. His last day will be Friday. During his time at amazon, the film veteran oversaw a number of successful films including “Manchester by the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full power of pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at lower east side Manhattan hotel The Orchid, rooftop bar Mr. Purple hosted Variety’s cover stars and luminaries for cocktails and the unveiling of the [...]

  • Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Joel Silver Exits Silver Pictures

    Top Hollywood producer Joel Silver has exited his production company Silver Pictures, Variety has confirmed. “Joel Silver recently indicated that he intends to leave Silver Pictures and go out on his own,” Hal Sadoff, a former ICM Partners agent who joined Silver Pictures several years ago as CEO, said in a statement. “We are working [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Ewen Bremner as Alan McGee in

    Danny Boyle-Produced ‘Creation Stories’ Adds Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff

    Jason Isaacs, Steven Berkoff and a host of other new names have signed on for “Creation Stories,” the film being exec-produced by Danny Boyle about Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee. The producers also unveiled the first shots of Ewen Bremner (“Trainspotting”) as the music mogul. Production is underway on the Irvine Welsh-penned project, with “Lock, [...]

  • 'Annabelle Comes Home' Review: This Grab

    Film Review: 'Annabelle Comes Home'

    In a country that should probably think about renaming itself the American Entertainment State, fan culture now produces an obsessive level of pop scholasticism, one that can parse the rules and details of movies and TV shows as if they were fine points of law. In a review of a horror movie, I once called [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content