Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Boudica: Queen of War

Boudica was the Druidic Joan of Arc, except she wasn’t done in by her own people. The Romans wanted to do that themselves, but it was much harder than they expected. The Britons rise up behind their war-goddess in director-screenwriter Jesse V. Johnson’s Boudica: Queen of War, which opens this Friday in theaters.

Initially, Boudica was content as a mother and the wife of Prasutagus, the king of the Celtic Iceni and a loyal, but unenthusiastic vassal of Rome. Unfortunately, the king will be fatally betrayed and his kingdom divided up by the Roman governor. He assumes flogging Boudica and executing her daughters will leave her broken. Instead, her native druid people adopt her as the mythical liberator foretold by legend.

Thanks to her semi-enchanted enchanted bronze sword and some personal tutoring from the true-believing Cartimanda, Boudica quickly develops into a fierce warrior. She even convinces the cynical mercenary Wolfgar to put his troops under his command. Frankly, Boudica is not a great strategist or tactician, but she maximizes the element of surprise. Building on their momentum, they start razing Roman strongholds throughout Celtic Briton.

Queen of War
starts out slow as molasses, which is odd, considering Johnson is such a pro when it comes to directing action. It is pretty clear he loved the Boudica legend so much, he gets bogged down with sentimentality, instead of cutting to the hacking and slashing.

Olga Kurylenko has the action cred for Boudica’s battle scenes and she has some nice chemistry with Clive Standen, playing Pratsutagus during the royal couple’s better days. However, Boudica never takes life as a character of any complexity. However, Peter Franzen is suitably gritty and grizzled as Franzen. It is also wild to see the face of 1960s British “kitchen sink drama,” Rita Tushingham, appear as the “Green Druid.”

Johnson’s film should have been grandly tragic, but it is undermined by its lack of energy and style. It just feels lifeless and downbeat. Not recommended,
Boudica: Queen of War opens this Friday (10/27) in New York, at the Cinema Village.