Druid Gladiator Clone (2003) Movie Review

In many respects, “Druid Gladiator Clone” has the same whimsical feel and texture of the amateur backyard movies that you made with your friends when you were a kid. However, creators Matt Farley and Charles Roxburgh are far from amateurs, as “Druid Gladiator Clone” is the third instalment in their five-part “Thomasville Saga”. And, to their credit, their skills in the plotting and humour department more than compensate for the problems brought on by a low budget. Yet, one has to feel slightly let down that they didn’t put a bit more time and effort into making “Druid Gladiator Clone” look a little less like a home video.

The storyline is certainly different: an evil Druid warlord (Kevin McGee) resurrects a young man (Matt Farley) and transforms him into a wicked superhero. With the help of a nice young woman (Mel Chyner), the superhero eventually begins to question his diabolical beliefs. As if his hands weren’t full enough with his study of good and evil, the superhero also has to deal with the confusion caused by his clone, his girlfriend Bri (Brianna Henderson), the beasts of The Druid Gladiator Match, being closely watched by a professor of Druidism (Charles Roxburgh), and, of course, the scheming Druid warlord who resurrected him in the first place.

Suffice to say, it can get a little confusing, with the viewer having to ask why these things are happening on more than one occasion. However, because the movie does not take itself seriously, neither should you. I am fairly certain that if you look too deep below the surface, “Druid Gladiator Clone” will be ruined, so just sit back and enjoy it rather than digging for a “hidden meaning”. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that a part of the movie wants to be analysed…

I was surprised that I enjoyed “Druid Gladiator Clone” as much as I did, as I have seen too many no-budget movies made by twenty-something Californians ruined by pretentious “underlying ideas” about good and evil. And, yes, “Druid Gladiator Clone” has its own ideas about good and evil, but thankfully, the film does not suffer from this, and in fact benefits, as these ideas (mostly the musings of the Druid Farley) actually add a certain amount of sophistication to this otherwise amateur project, showing us that Farley and Roxburgh actually know what they are doing.

With the theme of good and evil out of the way, “Druid Gladiator Clone” is actually quite entertaining, to the point of being (occasionally) laugh-out-loud funny. Well, maybe just a snigger. The humour is slapstick, surreal and low key at the same time, and, unlike a lot of low-budget features, is actually funny on purpose. Much of the dialog seems to be ad-libbed (“Sand castle lessons are out of the window”), adding to the madness and surrealism of the picture.

My one glaring complaint about “Druid Gladiator Clone” is the overall lack of sound and picture quality. Yes, I appreciate that Farley and Roxburgh had very little money to work with, and the whole thing was probably shot on a home video camera or digi-cam, but the camerawork is very shaky, and as a result does a lot to nullify the overall quality of the film. Also, the sound is quite frustrating, and was probably recorded directly through the camera. Once again, this detracts from the film’s overall quality. Maybe the home video look was something Farley and Roxburgh were going for, but it makes the movie look like a bunch of friends were messing around and less like a legitimate film.

The ending of “Druid Gladiator Clone” is rather abrupt, and doesn’t really tie anything up, making the subplot of the Druidism professor trying to find out more about the Druid Gladiator Match seem rather pointless. A great deal of confusion is also caused by the character of Bri — is she evil, is she not evil, and what does she have to do with any other aspects of the film? Maybe the sequel “Druids, Druids Everywhere” intends to answer some of the questions that the ending poses, but frankly, I could have used something a little more substantial than the “cliff-hanger ending” offered here.

“Druid Gladiator Clone” is a flawed movie that is, nevertheless, very fun, different and silly. If you don’t take it seriously, you’re bound to get a few giggles out of it. And I’d watch out for the “Thomasville Saga”; it has the makings of a cult classic.

Matt Farley (director) / Matt Farley, Charles Roxburgh (screenplay)
CAST: Matt Farley …. Matt Farley
Kyle Kochan …. The Hobo
Kevin McGee …. Druid Warlord Kevin McGee
Tom Scalzo …. Johnson

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