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“NORTHMEN – A VIKING SAGA” (Film Review)

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When life hands you lemons… start throwing axes at random nameless, faceless baddies.

Such is the maxim the marooned berserkers of NORTHMEN—A VIKING SAGA seek to honor and invoke fewer than five minutes into this viscera-festooned, manic-in-a-good-way, unabashedly over the top ninth century adventure flick: Think the popular History Channel docudrama series imbued with a little John McTiernan-esque swagger and sheen—not to mention a considerably more laissez-faire approach towards graphic violence—and your expectations will be roughly in the right longship.

It all begins with a gaggle of steely-visaged Vikings en route to an outpost of monasteries for a relaxing bit of the ol’ pillage n’ plunder. Alas, the weather started getting rough, the not-so-tiny ship was tossed…right onto the rocky shores of Scotland where, before anyone can even consider drawing a face on a goat head or whatever the Viking equivalent of a volleyball may be, the men find themselves engaged in grisly hand to hand combat with the Scottish King’s men.

Throats are slashed, torsos impaled, arrows flung with unfortunate accuracy and when the smoke clears the Vikings find themselves in possession of the King’s daughter, Inghean, a comely young soothsayer who refuses to cower even as she is bound and leashed to serve as a safe passage hostage by her reluctant captors.

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Naturally, despite their initial bad intentions and affinity for bloodletting, we soon learn that these particular Vikings—or most of them, anyway—have been hiding hearts of gold under those breastplates and, in the requisite twist, the so-called “wolfpack” of mercenaries the King sends off to rescue Lady Inghean decide to kill her as part of a plot to further empower themselves.

It isn’t difficult to see where this is all headed, but as the brotherhood-plus-one-sister defies the odds by the skin of their gruel-coated teeth there are a few clever, unexpected little narrative detours, including an uneasy partnership with a ridiculously badass bladed-staff wielding philosopher-monk Conall (TRUE BLOOD/DEAD SILENCE star Ryan Kwanten) and bold exploits from a Viking who looks as if he could front the Swedish melodic death metal band Amon Amarth… mostly because he is Johann Hegg, frontman of the Swedish melodic death metal band Amon Amarth.

Now, NORTHMEN—A VIKING SAGA might not re-set the standard for medieval period action adventure films, but it is a stylish and rambunctious romp that keeps the heartbeat up and stays fun without listing into hamminess. That alone is reason enough to lift one’s mead glass and give the film a hearty “Hear, hear!”

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About the author
Shawn Macomber http://www.stopshawnmacomber.com
The ravings of noted South Florida pug wrangler Shawn Macomber have appeared in Decibel, Magnet, Reason, Maxim, Radar, Shroud, and the Wall Street Journal, amongst other fine and middling publications. He also hosts the podcast Into the Depths and pens the metal-lit column Tales From the Metalnomicon for Decibel magazine.
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