THE 13th WARRIOR (1999)
I’ve always liked this flawed but very enjoyable action adventure since I first saw it. The 13th Warrior is based on a book by Michael Crichton called Eaters Of The Dead and tells the tale of Arab scholar Ahmad ibn Fadlan (Antonio Banderas) who is made an ambassador to a far off land as punishment for falling for the wife of a nobleman. On the way to his new assignment, he encounters a group of Norsemen and while staying in their camp is drawn into a quest by new king Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) to journey to a remote Norse kingdom and help rid them of mysterious foes that come out of the mist and murder and devour their people. Ahmad joins 12 other viking warriors including King Buliwyf in a battle against a phantom enemy that seems to be both man and beast. An outcast at first, the more they fight together, the more Ahmad and his unlikely companions become brothers in a fight against a savage and possibly supernatural enemy.
This 1999 adventure directed and co-written by Die Hard’s John McTiernan has a troubled history filled with re-shoots and talk of Crichton himself taking over the director’s reigns after poor reaction to preview screenings. That may explain why the film is a bit choppy in the first half, but, to be honest, even with a bit of an uneven narrative, the film is still an entertaining action adventure with a lot of bloody battles and a really fun covert raid into the mountain caverns where our villains reside. The film starts to click once they arrive in the besieged kingdom and even before that, the camaraderie between Banderas’ Arab scholar and these fierce Viking warriors makes this flick enjoyable. The film does convey well the bonding of this unlikely pairing and Ahmad’s slow earning of the men’s respect, as well as, finding the warrior and hero in himself is a lot of fun to watch unfold. There are also some really bloody action scenes as the vicious invaders try to take the village once and for all and our valiant group of few try to defend it and it’s people. Despite it’s flaws, the film does have an old fashioned action adventure spirit and it’s heart is in the right place. Whether it is McTiernan’s work coming through or the result of the additional post production efforts, the film is overall entertaining despite being far from perfect. There is some really nice use of the largely outdoor locations and the cast all perform well with Banderas being his usual charming self and the Viking warriors all being a very endearing bunch underneath their brutal and crude exteriors.
Not a classic but a fun and entertaining flick that is sadly under-appreciated. Also stars Tony Curran and the legendary Omar Sharif.
3 war axes!