Starring Emmanuelle Vaugier, Greg Evigan, Sebastian Spence, Garret Sato, John Terlesky
Directed by John Terlesky
Cerberus really isn't a monster movie. The movie is billed as a creature feature but the creature is barely featured, instead treated as more of a subplot device that barely factors into the film until the final 10 minutes and even then does virtually nothing of interest. It seems as though Cerberus was intended to be a low rent riff on Tomb Raider with people looking for and battling over a mystical treasure guarded by a supernatural force, in this case, the mythological three-headed canine. But the film fails at this, too. The ensuing journey and the perils involved offer little to excite us or our imagination. A monster movie with very little monster, an adventure movie with no sense of adventure; this is a B-movie that doesn't seem to know how to be a B-movie.
Attila the Hun struck a deal with Satan that led to the creation of the "Sword of Mars" which can imbue the person wielding it with the power to rule the world, sort of like the Spear of Longinius only without the whole blood of Christ aspect. Following his death, the Devil assigned Cerberus to guard the sword for all eternity. For those keeping score on the amount of cultural and ethnic boundaries the story keeps crossing with reckless abandon, the third act also features Romanian peasants that recognize the significance of a satanic sword once owned by an Asian warlord that’s now guarded by a monster from Greek mythology. I’ve always been a bit of a mythology buff, but combining one of the most famous Asian conquerors in history with the Christian concept of Satan and a three-headed dog from Greek mythology is really stretching things. As utterly preposterous as all this is, at least it demonstrates some actual imagination that the film is utterly devoid of otherwise. The characters are so bland and the plotting so mechanical that I’m stunned to know that this film was not produced by UFO. Stunned, I say.
Masked commandos burst into a museum to steal the breastplate once worn by Attila the Hun. Turns out they are under the command of Marcus Cutter ("My Two Dads" Greg Evigan, who at least seems to realize what sort of movie this is and tries to ham it up with little success), an unscrupulous mercenary for hire currently working for the ruthless Sung, an ex-North Korean General now in pursuit of the fabled Sword of Mars. Designs on the breastplate are actually encoded glyphs that once deciphered can be used as a map leading to the location of the sword. Unfortunately, in the process of stealing the breastplate, one of Cutter’s men got a bit too overzealous and killed the anthropologist they needed to kidnap to help them decipher these glyphs.
Enter Samantha Gaines (Saw II’s Emmanuelle Vaugier, and if you saw what happened to her in that movie then you might think she’s be better off since that way she’d never have been able to pick up the script for this dog pile), a prettier than usual anthropologist and former protégé of the guy that got murdered in the opening scene. Sung has Cutter’s men kidnap her idiot brother to blackmail her into coming to scenic Bucharest, the worldwide capitol for modern B-movies not filmed in Bulgaria.
Samantha arrives and instantly finds herself in the midst of a car chase/shootout between Cutter’s goons and a pair of CIA agents. After the CIA wins this showdown, Samantha finds herself working with hunky CIA agent Jake and his token black partner whose name is not important because the guy has three-headed dog chew toy written all over him from the moment he’s introduced. Jake needs her help to stop Sung because the North Korean is a megalomaniac in possession of several nuclear suitcase bombs and there’s no telling what he might do with them if he gains possession of the Sword of Mars and comes to believe he truly is invincible. Fortunately, the forces of freedom have high resolution photos of the breastplate so Samantha can decipher the glyphs and lead them to the Sword first. The trio goes tomb raiding just as soon as Samantha changes into her Gap-bought Lara Croft ensemble. Cutter and his goon squad also begin making their way to the Sword’s location. I don’t know how because it was about this point that I really had to take a bathroom break.
After dealing with some riddles and ancient puzzles not even worthy of an episode of "Relic Hunter", the good guys find the Sword, the bad guys immediately show up and take it from them, and then Cerberus finally emerges long enough to eat a few people from both sides. Cerberus is said to be the guardian of the sword yet it doesn’t rear its ugly heads until someone has already taken of possession of it; only then is it unleashed from its unholy kennel to go fetch the sword and kill those that took it. So if you’ve ever wondered what breed of dog Cerberus is, he’s a retriever.
It really is quite amazing how cheap computer generated monsters can still move as jerky as a stop-motion creation yet without any of the personality that masters of the craft like Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen gave to their creatures. To say that Cerberus’ appearance in the movie is less than impressive would be an understatement.
Good guys try to stop bad guys, Romanian peasants try to stop bad guys, bad guys double-cross each other, sister rescues brother, Cutter goes on a delusional power trip after getting his hands on the magic sword, I get bored, and a big three-headed Doberman attempts to turn everyone standing between it and retrieving the sword into a Scooby snack. A random group of young Romanians gathered around a campfire even get tossed in for Cerberus to maul on the way to the third act village because someone clearly realized that the monster is barely in the film and barely does anything until the last five minutes. And let’s not forget about the wonderful subplot involving Cutter raping a peasant barmaid. Yeah, that’s quality entertainment there.
This next bit would be considered a spoiler except I refuse to believe there are people that can’t predict happening from the opening minutes: the only way to kill Cerberus is with the Sword of Mars. Cerberus’ death happens so fast and is treated as such a non-event that it only pounds home what a pointless bore the whole film had been. Don’t worry about putting this dog to sleep because this dog of a film is guaranteed to put you to sleep first.
The phrase "Beware of Dog" has never been more appropriate.
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