While not purposely metaphysical like Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Valhalla Rising,” Claudio Fäh’s “Northmen: A Viking Saga” uses a relatively smaller scale to its advantage.
After surviving a shipwreck, exiled Vikings led by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) are immediately greeted by an attack launched by the men of King Dunchaid (Danny Keogh). It’s hammer time — with sword and arrow too — before the film even establishes which side it’s on.
As survivors of the king’s routed squadron retreat, they leave behind a carriage with the king’s only daughter, the feisty Lady Inghean (Charlie Murphy), within. The beleaguered Vikings scheme to hold her for ransom, which they can then use to buy back their freedom. But as we’ll soon learn, the king has other plans for them and for his daughter.
Along with Lady Inghean, the Vikings temporarily seek refuge with Conall (Ryan Kwanten), a Christian monk who really knows how to work a halberd. He’s got a secret tunnel and an escape route all planned out, yet the constantly bickering Vikings inexplicably can’t trust him.
Horribly outnumbered, the Vikings must outsmart King Dunchaid’s elite troop to reach safety. This is where the film gets interesting, as writers Bastian Zach and Matthias Bauer actually have to come up with something other than people shooting, stabbing and bludgeoning each other to death. If only they had put this kind of effort into creating characters worth caring about in the first place.
“Northmen: A Viking Saga.”
MPAA rating: R for violence throughout.
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.
Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.