Was Atilla a hunk or an early Hitler?

February 8, 2001 | Attila Reviews

Oh, that Attila the Hun. Was he a fifth-century Hitler or a hunk on a horse with a heart as big as Asia Minor? It’s a movie on USA. You do the math.

The two-part “Attila” (9 p.m., USA) concludes just like it started. With much hacking, throat-slitting and pillaging. At once solemn and slightly silly, epic and ridiculous, “Attila” reminds me of those big-screen sword and sandal movies they stopped making until “Gladiator” came along.

While it’s true that you can’t spell “hunk” without “h-u-n,” Gerard Butler’s Attila often reminded this viewer of a California surfer on a rampage. Or a bad hair day. The writing for “Attila” ranges from the fake-portentous to the peculiarly contemporary. In the scene in which Roman general Flavius Aetius (Powers Boothe) confronts his old jailer, he is given a line from “The Godfather” (”If I wanted you killed, you’d be dead by now”) and a reference (20 pieces of silver) from the New Testament. OK, Judas got 30, but who’s counting? Wow, Puzo and the big book in one scene! In a later moment, Attila and his slave-girlfriend N’Kara (Simmone Jade MacKinnon) cavort like two lovers in a soft drink commercial. For all of the ladies who throw themselves on the lusty horseman, the only thing Attila really seems passionate about is a hot bath.

Sadly, my favorite character Galen (Pauline Lynch), the witchy woman who foretells Attila’s greatness, dies at the end of Act One. Her permanent bird’s nest hairdo and “I-am-a-refugee-from-the-cast-of-‘Cats’ ” makeup were a sight to behold. Similarly odd touches are included in the wardrobe choices for those dastardly, decadent Romans. This being basic cable, everybody bathes and holds orgies in their pajamas. The outfits of fifth-century Empress Placidia (Alice Krige) look like stuff left in Audrey Hepburn’s closet. And you have to love her bratty daughter Honoria (Kirsty Mitchell), who shows how little things have changed from the days of the Forum to “The Days of Our Lives.” Saddled with many of the script’s most wooden lines, Powers Boothe does his best to sound stoic, wise and imperial at all times. He often sounds like Buzz Lightyear.

But if you love movies with a lot of impressive and gruesome battle scenes, “Attila” is for you.

c. United Feature Syndicate Inc.

Publication: Chattanooga Times / Chattanooga Free Press
Author: Kevin McCullough

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