Gladiator Games (2010)
“Accept the Challenge.”
Director: Stefano Milla
Cast: Francesco Chinchella, Suzi Lorraine, Maurizio Corigliano
Synopsis: In a distant time and place, power is decided by a cruel game in which two teams of gladiators fight in a vast arena.
Pretension abounds in Stefano Milla’s low budget sword-and-sandals ‘epic’ in which William, the Duke of Normandy (Maurizio Corigliano) sits down with a mysterious wayfarer (Maurizio Bazzano) to learn about the ancient game of Claang on the eve of his battle with the British at Hastings. The participants in this ancient game were presumably known as Claangers, but are not to be confused with lovable woollen sock puppets living on the moon. No sir, these chaps play for keeps in a high-stakes game which is only cursorily explained, but which bears a passing resemblance to US football without a ball. Not that it really matters: for all its mystical ancient historical overtones, Gladiator Games boils down to a battle of wills between the decent Tyr (Francesco Chinchella) and the dastardly Sahr (Paolo Tonti), and Tyr’s struggles to win back his wife (exploitation horror queen Suzi Lorraine) in ancient times when Claang was apparently a popular sport amongst second-rate gladiators.
Watching Gladiator Games, you get the impression that Milla is all too aware of both the budgetary constraints (the CGI is stunningly bad) under which he’s toiling, and the limitations of his actors. There are certainly signs that he could make a half-decent movie with the right finance and actors, but sadly Gladiator Games falls far short of that ideal. The action sequences are poorly choreographed – Chinchella takes about five seconds to rotate 360’ during a swordfight – and border on the laughable at times, but they are at least kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, the time between fights or games is padded out with interminable conversations in which people talk of honour and destiny and so forth while the plot stagnates unheeded. Chinchella looks like an overweight biker whom the likes of Suzi Lorraine (who, even in ancient costume, looks like she’s just stepped off a catwalk) wouldn’t give a second look.
Milla does have an eye for an arresting image, even though it’s obvious at times that he’s referencing past movies for inspiration, and some care appears to have been taken over choice of locations. Unfortunately, it would take a first-class director at the top of his game to surpass the film’s modest budget.
(Reviewed 9th November 2014)