Grim fighting machine (Russell Crowe) slays his way to Rome to confront the Caesar (Joaquin Phoenix) who crucified his family. In this grueling, brutish, ahistorical epic, director Ridley Scott supposedly sought to revivify the grand Roman spectaculars of Ben-Hur
, et al; we are confronted instead with a 160-minute Rorschach reading of the genre illuminating this filmmaker’s disturbing drift towards a fascist aesthetic. Like Scott’s previous film, GI Jane
is a loud, spouting, thuggish work preaching redemption through ritualized, militaristic sadism. The movie’s raison d’etre
lies in a succession of bloody set-pieces that invite the plebeian mob, both onscreen and off, to thrill to the hero’s quick, ferocious demolition of an assortment of anonymous victims. Though Scott offers legions of dismemberments, disembowelings, and decapitations, the ineptly composed and edited action is frenetic and incoherent, while the “state-of-the-art” computer-generated effects are as patently phony as cheap mattes.