Northmen – A Viking Saga (2014)
Northmen – A Viking Saga (2014)
Director: Claudio Fäh
Cast: Ed Skrein, James Norton, Tom Hopper
Synopsis: A band of Vikings cross enemy lines and a panicked race begins. The losers will pay with their lives.
Germany and South Africa provide convincing substitutes for the Highlands of ancient Scotland in Claudio Fah’s uneven Viking saga, which sees a band of Norse outcasts pitching up on the Scottish coast after a storm wrecks their ship. Their leader is Hjorr (Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Sword of Vengeance), the son of their former tribal chief, but his leadership is frequently criticised by the constant sniping of Jorund (Leo Gregory – Daylight Robbery), whose dodgy mullet and aggressive personality immediately mark him out as one to keep an eye on.
If they think the worst was behind them after reaching terra firma they soon realise otherwise, because after scaling a sheer cliff-face, our hardy band of warriors find themselves faced with a hostile welcome from a small unit of soldiers. But, as Northmen repeatedly shows us, all Scots are treacherous dogs with the fighting skills of boy scouts, which means they’re no match for Hjorr (pardon me) and his men even after they’ve just scaled the kind of rock face that even Spiderman would think twice about taking on. It turns out the Scots were escorting Princess Inghean (Charlie Murphy – Philomena, ’71), the daughter of King Dunchaid (Danny Keogh – Zulu), whom the Vikings figure will fetch a decent ransom. They don’t count on Dunchaid’s determination to have his daughter back, however, and he sends a small army led by a pair of bloodthirsty brothers to retrieve her.
Although boasting a larger budget and better production values than many similar movies, Northmen – A Viking Saga shares all their stereotypical genre tropes: an overdose of macho posturing as dirty men roar before, during or after engaging a foe in combat, stock characters approaching a fate predestined by formula, and improbable escapes from near-certain death. Unfortunately, the film is so preoccupied with upping the stakes that it grows increasingly silly with each passing minute. For example, although Dunchaid’s murderous army is in close pursuit, Hjorr (pardon me) and his men somehow find the time to construct an ingenious array of trip wire-activated booby traps which wouldn’t look out of place in a Roadrunner cartoon. Later, one ageing warrior manages to survive a fall of hundreds – perhaps thousands – of feet, while another leaps an equal distant into a turbulent ocean, only to re-emerge mere seconds later in a row boat we had just been informed was hidden in a cave, the entrance to which had been submerged by the incoming tide.
But the likeable thing about Northmen – A Viking Saga is that it doesn’t really seem to care – it’s enjoying itself too much to worry about such things. Who wants reality when we can have an average-sized woman haul a hulking Norse warrior from the depths of a bog into which he has been dragged by the death-grip stranglehold of an equally musclebound type who never speaks when a snarl will do? And that’s another thing Northmen has going for it in a strange sort of way – Hjorr (pardon me) looks every inch the hero with his rock-like biceps and long blonde hair, nut he repeatedly has to be rescued by those around him and in doing so somehow earns the respect of that dodgy fella with the mullet…
(Reviewed 21st February 2016)