VIRGIN TERRITORY wants to be a naughty, bawdy historical comedy...with gorgeous maidens to deflower and swashbuckling to be swashed (or is it buckled?). I suspect it was searching for a tone similar to Lasse Halstrom's CASANOVA from a few years ago, starring Heath Ledger. CASANOVA was loose, lusty but ultimately with a romantic's heart...so you don't feel too bad about enjoying all the racy stuff. (It also channels A KNIGHT'S TALE, which also starred Heath Ledger, by featuring modern music throughout. However, it is unknown and uninspired modern music...and thus is only a distraction.)
It tells the story of Lorenzo (Hayden Christensen), who is a rakish young gambler who runs afoul of the nobleman Dela Rata (Tim Roth) in Black Plague-ridden Florence. He's forced to flee town with nothing but his impecabbly tailored leather clothes, a sword and a big crush on Pampinea(Mischa Barton), the beautiful, eligible daugher of a recently deceased nobleman. Dela Rata is intent on forcing the young lady to marry him...but she's also already betrothed to a Russian count whom she has never met, but is expected to show up any moment to claim his prize. She, too, flees to the country with all her gorgeous female friends...to hang out at her father's villa.
By dumb luck, or unbelievable coincidence, both Lorenzo and Pampinea end up in a convent. I tried hard not to be offended by this depiction of nuns...but they were handled so stupidly that I was unable to simple put aside my objections. Lorenzo finds out that the nuns will take him in to work as a gardner, if they believe he is deaf and mute. He fakes this condition, and sure enough, the nuns (all gorgeous and well-endowed) proceed to employ him not so much as a gardner but as a stud. He keeps his mouth shut and allows himself to be used by these nuns who wear no underwear beneath their robes. Pampinea shows up at the convent, and apparently no one notices a new sister suddenly in their midst. She wears a veil all the time and so Lorenzo doesn't know who she is...but he falls in love with her anyway.
It gets sillier from here. What's unfortunate is that I have no problem with the idea of a silly, sexy romp through the gorgeous Italian countryside. (And the scenery is gorgeous and the film is well lit to show off the radiant colors of the wild poppies and the bright dresses of the girls.) But instead we get a bunch of women running around saying how proud they are to be virgins, who then immediately drop their dresses and assault the eager but inexperienced men around them. We get the occasional swordfight that is choreographed so clumsily and unconvincingly that it feels like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO staged for a high school play.
And yet again, I say that it might have been endurable if not for the unspeakably awful performance of Hayden Christensen. Other than his remarkable turn in SHATTERED GLASS, this guy is incapable of being charming, loose, or believable. He has an atrocious English accent (yeah, the film is set in Italy, but everyone except the Russian is British. The Russian sounds vaguely Italian). He may be handsome on the surface, but everytime he speaks, smiles or tries to look dewy-eyed with love...he comes off as totally idiotic. He's the man who ruined the most recent two STAR WARS movies with his pouty ways...and he's even worse in this mess. Mischa Barton also tries on an English accent for size, but it grows weaker and weaker as the film moves on. And poor former Oscar-nominee Tim Roth looks lost and terribly unhappy throughout.
If you want to see a lot of bare women doing little more than standing there and showing off their bodies...you should appreciate this film. If you want wit, pace or even coherence...you'll have to keep looking. It's been a long time since I've been so bored with a film and found so little to admire. I am quite confident in recommending this film to absolutely no one.
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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