The Barbary Brothers in the role for which they were born is the greatest triumph of the disappointment of Cannon Films.
I’ve gone too far now. To be honest, these days I can’t define myself in terms of good or bad when it comes to cinema. Do I like bad movies because they’re secretly good, or do I hate good movies because they’re secretly bad? I’m too far away to think of a movie like Barbarians. It is a magnificently cruel crash of an action film that is both a great disappointment and a masterpiece.
Cannon Films has surpassed itself with this film in all its absolute zeal. And yet, like Conan the Barbarian or other similar films from the golden age of action in the 80s and 90s, this is not at all surprising. The Barbarian Gemini, with their classic wrestling characters, offer a nice contrast to a film whose range and size – if released today – would disgrace Mad Max Fury Road in terms of production quality….. In one scene, but not in the other.
So stay with me while my brain tries to decipher whether the Barbarians deserve to be remembered as the crowning glory of Cannon Films’ ultimate filmmaking, or whether they should be buried deep in their long-forgotten coffin.
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The legacy of the Barbary Brothers
Well, to be honest, I have to say I love the Barbary Brothers. I love that they exist and that we have filmic evidence of their ridicule and their frankness on screen. (However, I have to talk about them in the past tense, since David Paul unfortunately died in March 2020, but their legacy will be permanent and alive forever). And I like that they really are the final introduction to making movies – Barbarians, in which you see two skinny guys turn into Schwarzenegger-style bodybuilders in one fell swoop.
Moreover, in a world of fantasy and pretension, where they become trapped by hitting and lifting stones, they also develop Brooklyn accents and street skills that would normally only be developed by watching years of Ninja Tortoise cartoons.
And despite the obvious flaws, excesses and idiotic nature of their characters, it works absolutely. If it was something else, I’d turn it off right away, but these are the best. The Barbarians even let them down by not finding a magical way to get their chic into the beautiful mess that is the film.
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Boundary action is equal to sword and sorcery
Apart from that, the film doesn’t work at all. But at the same time. Again, I don’t understand. The two future ninja turtles are originally from Brooklyn, but they are also orphaned nomads who grew up in a hellish fantasy world that produced bigger and more luxurious pieces than anything Arnold saw at the beginning of his career.
The world of the sword and sorcery is introduced very early with a very long and deep introspection in which our good man who plays the role of gypsy is captured and ambushed by the evil tyrant Kadar, persistently played by Richard Lynch. We also have a mother queen of the canary, played by Virginia Bryant, and a beautiful and brotherly sidekick, played by the young Eva La Rue.
The rest of the cast and crew seems to consist of non-English speaking Italian actors, with a mix of more qualified American actors…. You know, barbarian brothers doing their bash-brother routine. Again it is a mess and a swamp in every scene that can only be saved by beautiful landscapes, fantastic landscapes and barbarian brothers.
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But is it really the ultimate?
So the core of my problems with the film is just whether it’s final or not and, frankly, whether I like it or not. I like it, I think, but I think it’s awful, too. It can be very difficult to get there in some places. The film spends a lot of time creating this fantasy world with its long sword and a magical discovery that leads to the strange but brilliant but erroneous discovery that the stars of the film are brothers.
From there we go on an adventure with the duo as they compete against dragons, cave creatures and evil wizards, while making as many jokes as possible in each dialogue line. And it’s funny! His jokes rarely land where they belong, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t land where they are most amusing to hear.
The fights are great, if not the best choreography. But you can’t expect much from a first movie for these action stars. Perhaps the worst or sad part of watching the whole film is the realization that he flashes so blatantly and fails on the screen that Barbarian Brothers would never become anything – instead of being dismissed as a Cannon Films joke, instead of being celebrated as a Cannon Films triumph to be remembered with people like Arnold and Van Damme. Instead, we end up with this beautiful mess that ends our careers and defines us – the barbarians.
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