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"The 13th Warrior" Review
For some reason, "The 13th Warrior" is the most unlikely quintessential B-movie of all time. It's widely known. It is directed by John McTiernan of "Predator" and "Die Hard" fame and based on a book by Michael Crichton. It stars Antonio Banderas. Yet, for one reason or another, no movie pops up in bargain bins more than this one.
Antonio Banderas plays an Arabic (yes, you heard me right - Arabic) poet who is banished for his homeland when he is caught fooling around with the wife of a prince. That little mishap lands him the thankless job of emissary to the Vikings, who don't have the reputation of being the most friendly people. So Banderas' Ahmed is a stranger in a strange land, which gets even stranger when he is enlisted against his will on a dangerous mission with twelve Viking warriors.
Something is tearing up a remote Viking settlement up north, and Ahmed and his Viking posse are sent to check it out. Once in position, Ahmed and his comrades bear witness to the horde of brutal flesh-eating attackers - attackers who may or may not be human. The Vikings and their conscript must discover the truth of this mysterious foe before time and their ever-dwindling numbers run out.
The basis of this movie, "Eaters of the Dead," is certainly one of the more obscure works of Michael Crichton. The story is, in many ways, a transplanted, pseudo-historical retelling of "Beowulf," which might be one of the reasons the movie failed at the box office. Despite this, it remains one of the best "Beowulf" movies out there - and one of the best movies on the subject of Vikings.
When you consider the movie is from the same director as "Predator," perhaps it's because the movie is so similar to "Predator" that the movie works so well. Both movies feature well-armed warriors ready for anything facing off against something way out of their league - with expectantly violent results. And while you can be advised the source of the Vikings' woe is not an invisible alien, you can still look forward to plenty of twists and turns, including even a little intrigue.
There are a few plot holes, including a scene where Ahmed picks up the entire Norse language just by listening to it, as well as a few characters who never quite develop, like a somewhat random love interest for Ahmed. But despite these relatively few shortcomings, the movie moves with a brisk pace to enjoyable characters. In particular, the last stand at the end of the movie is one of the best battle scenes this side of "Lord of the Rings" and "300."
If you want a Viking action movie, "The 13th Warrior" is probably your best bet outside of "How to Train Your Dragon" and a few offerings on the SyFy channel. "The 13th Warrior" may have bombed at the box office, but at the very least, Antonio Banderas and his Viking crew lives on in the halls of the B-List Bargain Bin in the form of this great action flick.
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