The 13Th Warrior

1999, Movie, R, 103 mins


It's a man's world, 10th century Scandanavia, where Norsemen are real men: Rude, smelly, strapping, pugnacious, lusty and very dirty. Cultured Arab poet Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is out of his element in their company, but he's been banished from his civilized life in Baghdad and finds himself swept up in their mission to save a distant kingdom from a nameless foe that strikes under cover of mist and eats the dead. Ahmed has the good fortune to be taken under the wing of good-tempered, seasoned warrior Herger (Dennis Storhoi), and during his travels with the Vikings he comes to appreciate their loyalty, courage, coarse joie de vivre and stylish way with braids and heavy metal accessories. Once in the forest kingdom of elderly King Hrothgar (Sven Wollter), they must confront their fears and find out whether the mysterious Eaters of the Dead (the title of Michael Crichton's original novel) are demonic were-bears or merely vicious but mortal cannibals. Be aware: there's not much plot here (an apparent subplot involving Hrothgar's conniving son is introduced and dropped abruptly), and the movie appears to have come out the worse for a turf war between Crichton and McTiernan. What fun there is lies in the brawny derring-do and period detail. Unfortunately, the period appears to have been one in which everybody seems to have been covered with mud most of the time, obscuring the details, and director John McTiernan's extensive action background is nowhere evident in the murky, all-but-impossible to follow battle sequences. And while casting a motley crew of heavily accented Czech, Norwegian, Danish, Austrian and Scottish actors as the Norsemen adds to the viewer's identification with Ahmed, an outsider among foreigners who baffle him, it doesn't make following the dialogue easy. But since most conversations seem to end on the business end of a broadsword, it hardly matters. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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The 13Th Warrior
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