IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE

PG-13
Reviews

Based on "Dungeon Siege," a videogame adventure set in a fantasy world reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, In the Name of the King offers scenic locations, some passable special effects, a couple of large-scale battles, and an exceptionally incongruous cast ill-served by feeble scripting and indifferent direction. The sight of Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds in period drag may not be enough of an incentive for fans of the game to tear themselves away from their consoles and hie to the nearest multiplex.

Jason Statham brings a gangster's sensibility to his role as a turnip farmer in a peasant village somewhere near Vancouver. Farmer, as he is called, must avenge the death of his son by defeating the evil Gallian (Ray Liotta), a Saruman-like wizard who wants to take over the Kingdom of Ehb with his orc-like Krug warriors. Aiding Farmer in his quest are feisty old Gimli-like Norick (Ron Perlman); Merick, a Gandalf-like magus-magician (John Rhys-Davies); and Elora (Kristanna Loken), queen of elf-like forest creatures who join black-suited ninja in the film's climactic battle.

Ninja play an important part in the medieval world of Ehb, as do the paranormal powers of Muriella (Leelee Sobieski), a proto-feminist in the palace of King Konreid (Burt Reynolds). Rounding out the cast: Claire Forlani as Farmer's enslaved wife and the overacting Matthew Lillard as the dissolute Duke Fallow. Doug Taylor's screenplay jumbles these parts and a half-dozen or so subplots into a hodgepodge of bits and pieces lifted from other films. The actors sink or swim according to their commitment to the project and their affinity for camp. Statham, currently the action star most in need of a new agent, somehow doesn't altogether deplete the reservoir of good will built up from his earlier films. Liotta, who narrows his eyes and roars his lines like a "real" wizard, puts another nail in the coffin of his career.

Director Uwe Boll has mined this territory before in feature-film videogame adaptations like BloodRayne (2005). There he managed to team Sir Ben Kingsley and Meat Loaf in a story about vampire rape. Boll deserves an award of some kind for getting Joan of Arc, Hellboy and Stroker Ace on the same set, but the director's smartest decision may have been to hire Tony Ching Siu Tung, director of A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) and action choreographer for House of Flying Daggers (2004). The teeming, hurtling battle scenes in In the Name of the King are the best things in the movie, even if they could have been lifted from Hong Kong flicks from 20 years ago.