The Last Legion (2007)

(In theaters, August 2007) There are at least two ways this film should have failed. On one hand, it tries really hard to pump up a myth-making link between ancient Rome and the Arthurian legend, with some of the pretentious twaddle that implies. On the other, it’s a decidedly low-brow affair with contrived situations, predictable plotting and by-the-numbers dialogue. The budget of the doesn’t quite reach its ambitions, and the mis-mash between said ambitions and the quasi-juvenile adventure that follows is in itself an issue. But despite all expectations, the film has an amiable disposition, and far better casting than it deserves: Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley give undeserved gravitas to the film, whereas Ashwarya Rai alone is worth ten thousand special effect shots. (No, seriously: with the help of a few good stunts-people, she kicks serious ass and even makes a play for the “dark and sultry Angelina Jolie” role. It’s a nice stretch from her usual romantic lead roles and I want more of it.) While the film keeps hearkening back to other better-made films and practically wallows in it own cheapness, it’s not unpleasant by itself and works a lot better than other more respectable movies. Certainly not worth a huge amount of trouble (except for Ashwarya Rai fans), but not a complete disaster. There’s even something oddly charming about it.

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