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TROY (article first published : 2004-05-30)

The budget was massive, reportedly around the R1,5billion mark. Star Brad Pitt, in his first screen outing since Ocean's Eleven two years ago, alone pocketed some R122 million for his efforts. And the film's trailer is fantastic. Sadly, however, the eagerly awaited and much-hyped <>Troy, the mucho-glossy new period drama by German director Wolfgang Petersen (of Das Boot fame) is a crushing disappointment.

But the film also affords an unintentionally good giggle at times. And the reasons are simple - it is just way too theatrical, the performers alternatively wooden or hammy; their posings, poutings and posturings often embarrassing and their deliveries of mostly clunky dialogue invariably stilted. Other sources of amusement are the outrageous bad-hair-day hairstyles and wince-worthy costumes - many of them tie-dye, turquoise-drape affairs. It's more camp than a gay pride battalion mincing through a row of shocking-pink tents.

The film, of course, tells Homer's classic story of the trouble and bloodshed caused by Helen of Troy, played by newcomer Diane Kruger, a not-so-gorgeous, decidely lacklustre former model and ballerina.

Helen, you'll recall from primary school history lessons, was the beauty who launched a thousand ships - a woman who, while married to a powerful Greek, fell for and fled Greece with Troy prince Paris (a curly-topped Orlando Bloom).

The anger and retaliation of Helen's husband, brother of the king, led to a 10-year-war between Greece - whose mightiest warrior was the seemingly invincible Achilles (pouty Pitt) - and Troy, whose crafty army was led by Paris's brave brother, Hector (Aussie actor Eric Bana, last seen as the title character in The Hulk).

The war finally came to an end after the Greeks, under the leadership of Odysseus (Sean Bean), came up with the idea of housing warriors in a giant wooden horse, accepted by Troy as a sort of peace offering to the Gods. The warriors crept out of the horse in the dead of night, opened the gates of the walled city, let in their army and Troy burned under their attack.

All of this is covered in Petersen's two-and-a-bit-hour tale which, shot mostly in Mexico and Malta, has Pitt returning to pinup mode. His fans will coo and sigh constantly as the impossibly handsome 40-year-old, blond tresses blowing and newly pumped-up body gleaming and rippling, strikes endless poses and pouts prettily in leather skirts and sparkling armour.

In between ballet fight choreography - particularly well orchestrated in a showstopping battle between Achilles and Hector - Pitt constantly whips off his kit to reveal tanned and toned torso, bare legs (not computer-generated, as some gossips have suggested) and, yes, we even get bare buttocks - by candlelight, nogal.

The loving, lingering close-ups are constant and the tone sometimes teeters towards the homo-erotic, it has to be said. Even an insipid Orlando Bloom, playing a cowardly character and looking in desperate need of a good meal and a good personal trainer, is directed to flash his skinny bod for a scene involving rumpy pumpy. Bana, too, flashes the flesh but, in spite of his neutral accent wavering, as do most of those in the cast, manages, at least, to get by as a performer.

But it's really only a doddery Peter O'Toole, as Hector and Paris's king and father, and Sean Bean, as the orderly and amiable Odysseus, who truly come up trumps in the acting stakes here.

There can be no doubt Petersen's many action scenes are impressive - sweeping aerial shots of hundreds of galleons beaching and thousands of warriors swarming the shores and climbing the hills into battle. But the spectacle becomes a little so-what after a while and one wishes for a little more flesh to the cardboard characters.

Troy is probably going to do well at the box office for its stellar ingredients, but it will not be remembered among the year's finest film fare. It gets a rating of 6/10. - Billy Suter




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