Magnolia Pictures // 2007 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 24th, 2009
Two Vikings wander around the woods for 109 minutes. If you love scenes of chicken beheading, tree-cutting, and graphic pooping, your dream film has arrived.
While marooned in 11th century Greenland, two Vikings (separated from the rest of their brethren) are faced with the unappealing prospect of walking. And so they do. They walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, taking the occasional timeout to swap a few lines of Nordic dialogue, chop down a tree, build some shelter, burn a church to the ground, take a dump on some foliage then wipe with a tree leaf, and then it's back to the walking.
No one ever said being a Viking was easy...or entertaining.
You know what else isn't easy? Sitting down and watching this astounding bore, knowing full well there are other, far more interesting and useful things to do with your time, like fly-fishing or starting a kickball league for underprivileged urban youth.
I am a sucker for Viking movies and will cut plenty of slack to even the most underperforming Norse adventures. Take Pathfinder, for example. It was so dark I could barely make out what going on, but when those Vikings show up, we're talking an automatic 25 percent bump in viewing enjoyment.
Severed Ways, on the other hand, did everything within its power to make awesome Vikings with swords as lame and tedious as possible. I would rather watch a Viking push a shopping cart through a Rite Aid for 100 minutes than sit through this endless, meandering nature walk.
I have to be missing something, right? The accolades on the disc case trumpet the film's "gritty realism" (in all fairness that line could be taken out of "despite its gritty realism, Severed Ways still manages to suck out my soul through my anus"), calling it "chest-thumping," "head-pounding," and "a must see."
It is a must see, if you must see a grown man squat down and rocket out a chocolate cascade of diarrhea, grab a plant, and go to town wiping out his buttcrack, all while the camera lovingly soaks it all in. Really, for like 90 percent of the film, the camera work is herky-jerky, zoomed in close, and disorienting, but when Volnard takes his epic dump, all of a sudden the cinematographer invokes the steady hand of a National Geographic photojournalist. Gee, thanks.
Look, I get what director/writer/producer/actor Tony Stone is trying to do, crafting some ultra-realistic look at survival in the 11th century. Fine. You're going to need to chop down trees to build shelter and cook fowl. I got it. But Severed Ways is just so flat and miserably paced, any potential interest I had in subscribing to his vision was torched like a floating Viking funeral pyre. I didn't care about these guys, their traipsing, the priest they meet along the way, their falling-out, or even their flashbacks to better times with their Viking wenches. Of course, any sense of escapism would immediately evaporate with the onset of the black metal soundtrack that would kick in. Why is that guy head-banging in the 11th century?
The film looks fine in its 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, though the colors don't pop as much as I'd expect from a work so heavily dependent on flora and scenery. The 5.1 surround splits its duty between "leaves crunching underfoot" and "bizarre heavy metal soundtrack." Extras offer little of substance: two deleted scenes and some random, ambient footage of nature, the church-burning scene, and Newfoundland.
Some of the sweeping landscapes captured in the film are pretty impressive. There.
You will rarely find as big a fan of Vikings as me (digression: track down and read Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales series of books), but there is nothing here that floats my boat. In fact, Severed Ways burns my boat and sinks it.
Guilty. I'm going to lose myself in some mead.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Unknown, Old Norse)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Unknown, Old Norse)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes