A crib sheet even less reliable than Cliffs Notes, this direct-to-video adaptation of Beowulf takes a few liberties, to say the least, in adapting the English language's first masterpiece. The first film adaptation of the medieval epic, this version transplants Beowulf to what seems like a post-apocalyptic neo-medieval fantasy land, unless the Anglo-Saxons had eyeglasses and lived in buildings resembling abandoned factories. Owing as much to Alien and The Road Warrior as to its putative source material, it makes its protagonist—played with few words, most of them wisecracks, by Highlander star Christopher Lambert—similarly anachronistic. Arriving from nowhere to fight a hideous beast terrorizing a group of civilized castle-dwellers, Lambert slowly earns the trust of his new charges with displays of bravery. But any similarities to the film's source material pretty much end there, even if Lambert occasionally sounds like he's speaking Old English. ("This is my life. Eet con't be shared. Especially with eenyone thot cee-ares for me.") In terms of questionable decisions, transforming Grendel's mother from a traditional monster to a crimped, silicone-enhanced Pamela Anderson lookalike ranks ahead of setting each fight scene to a pumping techno score. Even as a modest action film with only a hint of literary pretension, Beowulf has its share of problems: After Grendel slaughters a gymnasium-sized roomful of women and children, for example, their friends and relatives' response seems closer to muted aggravation than terror and misery. Quite a bit of thought, if not quite enough money, appears to have been expended on Beowulf's production design, but the creative energy must have run dry when it came time to assemble the rest of the film. By the time Lambert rides off toward hinted sequels (anyone up for The Battle Of Maldon?), most viewers will probably find themselves as tired of the enterprise as a hungover English 101 student.

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