So what if Troy falls short of its good intentions to pave the road to boffo glory with art? You are not going to resist a Gladiator-size epic with studly guys, led by Brad Pitt buffed to steroidal splendor as Achilles, playing a game of "my dick is bigger than yours" by going to war over a babe. OK, the story is direct from Homer, with attendant reminders of slogging through The Iliad in lit class. But Troy, besides being tremendously entertaining, is the best crib-sheet guide to Homer ever. Director Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm) rips and roars through the tale, filling the screen with all the action a $200 million budget can buy. In battle scenes, Petersen whips his computers into a frenzy, making 1,000 extras in soldier drag look like 50,000, each with a mean hair up his butt. These Troy boys may wear sissy sandals, but they can stick in a sword and gut an opponent with enough artery-piercing, entrail-twisting brio to earn an R rating.P/> ou know the story. Paris (Orlando Bloom), the hottie prince of Troy, runs off with Helen (Diane Kruger), the hottie wife of the Greek king Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson). Royally pissed off, the king and his brother Agamemnon (the estimable Brian Cox) launch 1,000 ships (again with the computer magic) and steam off to Troy. The combat scenes, with soldiers rushing toward one another brandishing weapons heavy with phallic symbology, have a visceral pow.P/>ut what of character, say you who are not content with a rousing popcorn movie buttered with testosterone? Here we hit a snag. At first, Pitt seems to be the film's Achilles heel. Removing his helmet, he shakes out a head of lush hair gleaming with blond highlights, as if to say, "Hi, I'm Achilles for Garnier Fructis." This shampoo-ad glamour — not to mention bare-ass sex scenes with a temple virgin, Briseis (warmly played by Rose Byrne) — wimps out a harsh character. Achilles, a mercenary hired by the Greeks, is haunted by demons. Pitt gathers momentum after the script, by David Benioff (25th Hour), stops saddling him with Braveheart lines ("Immortality — take it, it's yours!") that don't exactly trip off his surfer-dude tongue. It's also no help to Pitt that the cast consists of classically trained, mostly British actors, including the legendary Peter O'Toole as King Priam of Troy.P/>loom bravely risks his "It boy" career as a Lord of the Rings hero by correctly playing Paris as a callow weakling whose great love for Helen (Kruger, a German model, is beautiful but bland) has the depth of a wading pool. One of the film's highlights has Paris foolishly taking on Menelaus in hand-to-hand combat and then crawling to safety at the feet of his older brother, Hector (Eric Bana). Public shame adds character to the young prince, and Bloom acutely registers the change. Bana, the Aussie actor who was so good in Chopper and so lost in The Hulk, gives the film's strongest performance, nailing the nobility in Hector without making him a paragon of dull virtue.P/>t two hours and forty-three minutes, Troy can drift into talky torpor as countless subplots are juggled. But when Petersen gets the action going in the final third, with Achilles and Hector in a killer duel and the Greek sneak attack inside the thirty-eight-foot-high Trojan horse — the soldiers snake out of this Seabiscuit's wooden belly and neck to tear up the town — the excitement doesn't quit. Troy lacks the focus of Gladiator, not to mention that Oscar winner's scrappy wit. But why kick a gift horse when you're in summer-movie heaven?
From The Archives Issue 343: May 14, 1981