Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Centurion A.D." - - Trash Can v. Belt Man

What do you get when you take Christina philosophy about life after death, mix it with European mythology of the Wandering Jew, and add in a dash of modern day conspiracy theories?

Why, you get the best opening to a movie ever!

Yes, Centurion A.D, has it all, even a woman being beat to the beat. Luckily, our hero has trained so much by beating a hanging trash can that he is able to save the day.

But who is our mysterious hero? Why does he hate trash cans so much? The second question is never answered, but we soon (not soon enough) learn that actor/writer/director Brian Reed Garvin is ARCHER STONE, a man with a plan to  . . .well, do something.

The biggest problem with Centurion A.D. is that it plays out like the first three episodes of a television show. The first chunk is about a nurse and a preacher trying to figure out exactly who Archer Stone is. Apparently, when the preacher was just a boy, Archer Stone visited his father and cured him of dying. The nurse gets involved because a cop runs her over, she dies, and Archer cures her death too. So right off the bat, any tension goes out the window because in the first half hour we learn death is like bruising your knee.

We then cut to an odd scene where Archer Stone plays guitar at a bar, then cock blocks a demon. The demon then beats the crap out a pregnant woman, Archer stone saves her then IMMEDIATELY LEAVES HER so the demon comes back and strangles her with a belt.

Not just any belt though! A Corsican belt.

That's important because now we've moved to plot two. Apparently, the FBI is chasing the Corsican Belt killer. This man has been traveling the country strangling women with belts and since Archer Stone is always at the scene he becomes the main suspect. Of course, Archer Stone proves his innocence because "the belts are different sizes." Apparently, the FBI agent thinks this is a good reason to trust Archer Stone, even though it's just as likely that the killer isn't actually taking off his own belt and killing people and instead has a suitcase of belts but whatever.

This plot goes on forever and nowhere at the same time. The FBI agent is chasing Archer Stone who is chasing belt wielding demons, and he never seems to protect anyone. Multiple people die before the movie even starts, and in the course of this movie, including the pregnant woman and a demon possessed baby sitter, neither of whom he tries to bring back to life.

Oh, that reminds me. Archer Stone's origin story.

So apparently, Archer Stone was actually the centurion who pierced Jesus's side with a spear to speed up his death on the cross. After being "drenched" in Christ's blood, he gained eternal life and other assorted super powers since we all know Jesus's blood is the equivalent of a radioactive spider. Now, this is the old story of the Wandering Jew that circulated around Europe for hundreds of years. No part of that story talks about crime fighting or belts, but I'm cool with it as a jumping off point.

But now let's circle back to the beginning. If he's an immortal warrior who beats demons to dust, why does he have to practice on a hanging garbage can? The movie really pushed the mystery element for the first act but then once it's answered you have to wonder things like:

1) How does he afford to buy motorcycles? Hell, how does he get gas money?

2) What happened to his Italian accent if he was born in Rome?

3) Aren't technically most centurions from A.D. since Rome ruled long after the death of Christ? Why is HE Centurion A.D.?

The movie wants us to wonder "Who is Archer Stone" then once it answers the question it never dwells on the repercussions of it. A more entertaining movie would have been about an immortal crime fighter/demon hunter who has to break laws to protect the people of Earth. So what if he steals a motorcycle, he's the frigging Centurion A.D.! Then have him defeat a local menace and the movie ends with him leaving town to fight another demon.

Oh, but that would be too easy to follow, I guess.

Our hero, as it stands, is also a total prick which doesn't help things. There is a scene about halfway through the movie where Archer Stone, the nurse and the minister and hanging out in a church when a demon possessed man (or a demon in a human form, the movie is pretty fuzzy on this) comes in. He grabs the nurse, pulls out a knife and starts to try to stab her. She is screaming for dear life. The priest is horrified.

Archer Stone remains seated. He's calm and collected. "He can't hurt you, this is holy ground."

Now look at this picture.

"Oh, he can't stab you! Quit pissing your pants in fear, you cry baby."

She's terrified. The minister is frozen in horror. Archer Stone could give two shits because he know's they're protected. But how awful would it be to be caught in choke hold regardless that a knife can't stab you. You're in a choke hold! Thanks, "hero."

Where the movie really lost me was the last third, or episode three as we might as well call it when the plot shifts radically again to a Faraday cage and I have to admit this is when the movie completely goes off the rails.

I am a conspiracy theory nut. I don't believe in 99% of them, and the deeper you dig, the weirder and more obscure they become. In my conspiracy journeys I came across a little known theory that the Illuminati has been building Faraday cages around emergency rooms and hospices to collect the spirits of the dead and prevent them from going to heaven. Sometimes, the hospice rooms are built next to maternity wards so the spirits will bounce off the cage and land in a baby.

This was the look on my face during the last 30 minutes.

It's a bizarre theory that even has 9/11 truthers calling "bullshit" but it's the entire third act of this movie. Archer Stone has to destroy the cage to set the spirits free, although one has to think the demons really haven't been doing much if they've only built one. They've been traveling the states belt killing, the least they could do is build a few more soul traps.

But no, Archer Stone destroys it, then ten minutes before it ends drops some more exposition instead of wrapping up the story and drones on about possessions and baptism and what do you know?! The FBI agent is possessed. Then he is exorcised in a pointless scene and the movie thankfully ends.

"Centurion A.D." seems like a faith based movie but it veers so far into "sci fi" territory that it has to lose most of that audience. Any church youth group would love the first hour of this movie, but the idea that a box can block the power of God comes off as pretty blasphemous. It's such a bizarre move I wonder if the director believes in the theory.

As far as the writer/actor/director combo: while the script is flat-out bizarre and the actor is a little pudgy to pull of the action star role, the directing is passable. The Crucifixion scene was very stylish and haunting, but there were smaller scenes that also shone. Archer Stone exorcising a small girl and putting the demon in a guinea pig, while again a bizarre set piece, is saved by the acting of the young girl. She actually comes across as a little girl rather than an actress. But right after that is a scene where he takes down a Hispanic gang of demons by throwing water in their faces so it's a wash. The directing could only be as good as the script and since he both wrote and directed it, ultimately he's to blame for the jarring story beats.

I wouldn't mind seeing another feature director by Brian Reed Garvin, I think the directing is not as garbled as most low budget films I see. He can frame a shot. But when the best thing I can say in a review is "he can frame a shot" you know something is wrong. You wanna get weird with the script and have soul cages, go nuts. But keep it coherent. If the movie dropped the whole belt murder angle and went right into the soul cage, or dropped the soul cage and had it be about trying to stop a serial killer demon, it would have been stronger for it. As it is, "Centurion A.D." is a holy mess.

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