Ridley Scott directs Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix and Oliver Reed in this historical actioner where a fallen Roman general fights his way towards a chance of revenge in the coliseum; his target, the new Emporer.
A rousing piece of blockbuster cinema, even if it has reached a vintage where it’s now dated style looks creaky rather than nostalgic. Every element works except a slightly trite script. The production design from ornate helmets to booby trapped battle arenas is awe inspiring. Hans Zimmer’s transcendent score carries you towards Elysium. Crowe glowers and thunders in his A-List breaking turn. Muscular, sensitive, capable… he’s a fine movie star, one of my favourites. Here he gets speeches and set-pieces of equal impressiveness. The support is rich with Richard Harris and Olly Reed turning ham into golden gammon. What a delight! And young Joaquin makes for a captivating villain… as he sticks his tongue out dementedly watching all the chopping, slashing tournaments you can’t help but grow a soft spot for the evil cad. Celluloid world builder Ridley working at full steam on a wobbly bit of writing with a budget that forced creativity and stars that were unruly and committed… It remains a fine piece of prestige entertainment.