Kingdom of Gladiators (2011)

Some interesting ideas let down by endlessly slow pacing in this low budget fantasy adventure. Kalaedoscope DVD UK R0 DVD.

The Film

In a pastoral fantasy realm a King makes a pact with a demon to help him win a war and in return spirits away his only child. Decades later she seemingly returns during an annual gladiatoral tournament being held in his castle. With the kingdom in peril, three feuding gladiators are chosen to save the day...

Co-written by the director Stefano Milla (who went on to film Richard: The Lionheart (2013)), Kingdom of Gladiators is a minature fantasy film with an interesting kernel of storyline, featuring demonic pacts, hidden destiny and all of the usual genre ingredients, that with a good writer could have been expanded into an entertaining epic. Obviously aware of the limited budget, Milla does not try and ape a grand scale, Lord of the Rings style production and so we are spared the inevitable excessive CGI of a film like Dark Nemesis (2011), however at the same time he fails to expand the kernel of storyline at all and so even for the 80 minute production, it feels endlessly padded out, both with the completely unnecessary gladiatoral tournament and simply long scenes in which nothing goes on at all.

What storyline there is, does at least keep things interesting and makes the film's lengthy padding scenes tolerable (at least for those experienced in bad movies). Probably the most enjoyable part of the film comes in the big fight scene between Kayne and Gunnar which, considering both actors are actually pro-wrestlers, is helmed in the style of a wrestling match and set to rock music - it pushes the film from a rather timid low budget fantasy into utterly daft 'bad movie' territory and is more than welcome. The film does pick up considerably at this point and in the latter quarter it moves at a better pace building towards a fittingly climactic and surprisingly downbeat ending.

Direction is perfectly solid - the northern Italian locations are well suited to the fantasy setting and the use of a real castle rather than a model or CGI replacement is very welcome. That said, the occasional CGI that appears actually looks quite good, although like many modern productions, Milla unfortunately resorts to digital blood during the combat scenes which even though far more convincing than in many other films, can still not match the look of practical effects. Not that there is much blood and surprisingly for a European low budget film it even completely eschews nudity, in spite of the casting of two actresses who have made careers in adult productions. The music is a pretty typical epic style orchestral job with a couple of rock tracks.

In a wonderfully old-school DTV casting move, the main roles are taken by pro-wrestlers and porn actresses - young British wrestler Leroy Kincaid plays Kayne while Matt Polinsky (who wrestled on the US independant circuit as Sterling James Keenan and now in WWE as Corey Graves) plays his rival Gunnar. Suzi Lorraine who appeared in a number of Seduction Cinema films (including The Lord of the G-Strings (2003)) appears as the King's daughter while Annie Social (who actually fits in both camps, having wrestled for Women Extreme Wrestling which combined wrestling and porn) plays Kayne's lover. The character of the King is credited to a Bryan Murphy with no other film credits - perhaps not unsurprisingly - at best he is doing a very good impression of a comically bad Shakespearian actor.

A few interesting ideas are terribly underdeveloped and the film is overly reliant on lengthy padding for much of its runtime, but with a wonderfully daft pro-wrestling match in the mid-point, some comically bad acting and a decent final chapter, the rather misnamed Kingdom of Gladiators does offer a few rewards for dedicated hardcore bad movie fans but is certainly not recommended to the general public. Hard to imagine that watching in the film's original 3D would make much difference to the viewing experience.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Independent wrestlers Leroy Kincaid from Britain and Matt Polinsky (Corey Graves) from the US.
Directed by anyone interesting? Stefano Milla - a little known Italian director who has made a handful of low budget fantasy films including Gladiator Games (2010) and Richard: The Lionheart (2013) starring Malcolm McDowell.
Any gore or violence ? A little blood but nothing gory.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Strictly bad movie fans only.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
Shot on digital, the print is fine, although the colours seem a little off in some scenes.
Audio English stereo - sounds okay.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Deleted scene - 'The Tavern' - a scene from the mid-point of the film that is very surprising for its ommission, a highly entertaining looking scene which gives a lot more sceen time for the Gunnar character.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Availability Available on its own or in various multi-pack incarnations..
Other regions? Available in the US with red/blue anaglyph 3D variant. Available in Germany on Blu-ray.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd March 2012.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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