E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 133 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 12th, 2010
In a time of war and betrayal, a hero will rise.
Ever ask yourself, "Man, I'd love to watch a period action piece about the unification of Sweden?" Brother, your time has come!
Arn Magnusson (Joakim Natterqvist) lives in a monastery, but he's no ordinary monk: he's an expert swordsman who will absolutely cave in your skull if you mess with his family. Speaking of which, he's about to reunite with his until a scandal breaks; he's impregnated his girlfriend and for penance he's sent off to the Crusades to practice his lethal swordcraft against Saladin and the boys.
His greatest challenge will come after he heads back home, when he'll be tossed into the mix of a political blood feud and be forced to utilize the skills he picked up in Jerusalem to bring his brother Swedes together in a flurry of blood and arrow wounds.
The good news: even though the Crusades figure prominently in Arn, the audience is spared the usual Teachable Moment that accompanies Templar flicks. The bad news: there is a lot less action than you're expecting.
Let's start with what works. Arn the Knight Templar is a legit period epic, both in scope (sprawling vistas from all over the world, tons of extras) and runtime (two+ hours). Just because this isn't a heavily marketed, big-budget Hollywood affair, don't think these guys put together a chintzy affair. Arn feels big and while it may lack thousands of CGI-generated battle extras, it still registers as a grand adventure. The soldiers are actually there, as are the horses, and the mayhem they get up to is practical and grounded.
The story is pretty interesting too. Not knowing a thing about how the Swedes got their game on, the historical aspects appealed to me. Granted, the bulk of the time was spent on Arn's Crusades hijinks, but it all built toward the big, Braveheart-fueled ending. I didn't know going in this movie was about Sweden's history, so it was a nice surprise.
Arn's a great character, too, played by Natterqvist with the subdued confidence of a guy who doesn't talk a lot of trash but is more than willing to carve your spleen out with his sword. Plus, I bought into his romance.
The downside? There's just not enough action. At two hours and with the Crusades and the Swedish throwdown the backdrop, you'd expect some lengthy battles, but that's just not what this movie is about. The set-ups feel more like skirmishes, and the end battle, while boasting a lot of hard-asses ready to mix it up is abbreviated and not nearly the grand spectacle I was expecting.
The DVD: a gritty 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.2 surround and a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
I found the story and characters interesting but the lack of full-scale action will hurt Arn in the long run.
(Swedish for) Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R