Blood Creek (skip crop)

"Blood Creek" (2009)
There are a lot of big time stars that have the gore-covered skeletons of early horror films hanging in their closets. Jennifer Aniston has "Leprechaun," Leonardo DiCaprio has "Critters 3," George Clooney has "Return of the Killer Tomatoes," and Michael Fassbender has "Blood Creek." A barely released (years after it was made), nearly unwatchable horror movie directed by the perpetually uneven Joel Schumacher, "Blood Creek" co-stars Dominic Purcell and future Superman Henry Cavill as a pair of brothers who battle a supernatural Nazi played by Fassbender (just in case you thought the actor's first brush with Nazis of questionable historical accuracy was "Inglourious Basterds"). Fassbender is only seen in all of his roguishly handsome leading man glory during the movie's creaky prologue, where his Nazi "scholar" is investigating an ancient rune stone that has been discovered in West Virginia. Of course, Fassbender wants to use the stone to dispense evil across the globe, but he ends up being captured and turned into a vengeful ghoul. It's Fassbender in makeup/CG that then occupies the rest of the movie, covered with scars and gore and Nazi hieroglyphics, before he/it drills into his own head to reveal a third eye. Honestly, Fassbender doesn't have a whole lot to do—he stalks around like a classic Universal monster, but even in WTF stakes is overshadowed by the reanimated bloodthirsty horse who dispenses with Shea Whigham at one point. But he's hardly called upon to emote aside from being beyond-the-grave angry, so he can only shoulder so much of the blame. It's the leaden script and Schumacher's barely coherent direction that really causes "Blood Creek" to fail. This is one of those back-of-the-filmography curios that only diehard fans (probably those bordering on masochists) should bother exploring. [D]

Fish Tank

Fish Tank” (2009)
Written and directed by the great Andrea Arnold ("Red Road," "Wuthering Heights"), make no mistake, this is newcomer Katie Jarvis’ film (she was discovered on the street, it was her debut and the only film she’s made thus far). Still, Michael Fassbender, who was on the rise at the time, (“Fish Tank” came out the same year as “Inglourious Basterds”), plays a key element in the drama. Jarvis plays Mia, a reckless, volatile and sometimes aggressive 15-year-old girl from a lower class family. Passionate about hip-hop dancing at home when everyone is away, this is Mia’s one true escape from a harsh and underprivileged life in the high rises of an East London ghetto. But things change when her single mom (Kierston Wareing) brings home a charming and handsome new boyfriend Connor (Fassbender). Encouraging and helpful, Connor changes the tempestuous family dynamic for the better briefly, but the intriguing spark between boyfriend and daughter quickly spreads out of control like an unexpectedly violent house fire. To say more is to spoil the film, but suffice to say there are some fascinating and unexpected twists in this classic gritty British realist drama. The Jury Prize-winner at Cannes, Jarvis is outstanding and outshines everyone because it’s her character's film and she owns it, but Fassbender generously plays his supporting role, keeping it in the pocket and only lashing out when it’s most needed. It must be said, the tension between is mostly coiled up nicely by the actor and its unspoken seductive powers evinces Fassbender at his unshowy best. This is an actor who can express a lot with very little and clearly Hollywood was already, by this stage, more than sold. [B+]


"Centurion" (2010)
If there's one thing British director Neil Marshall knows, it's muck. His movies (like the beloved subterranean monster mash "The Descent") and his television work (he famously directed the "Blackwater" episode of "Game of Thrones") are positively lacquered in grime. The same is true for his underseen "Centurion," in which Fassbender plays Quintus Dias, a centurion soldier who is part of the famous Ninth Legion, a Roman regiment that walked into the Scottish Highlands … and never returned. Fassbender is ostensibly the hero because he's one of the only members of the Ninth Legion left alive, because he speaks the native Picts' language, and for much of the movie the actor is covered in blood and mud, running of his life from the villainous natives (Olga Kurylenko plays a wonderfully bad-ass warrior). The actor's skills aren't exactly put to the test, since he's almost exclusively asked to run around and chop people's heads off (this is a straight-up B-movie genre exercise) although he does get to stretch a little bit when it comes to sequences he shares with Imogen Poots, who plays a young witch. In these scenes he's allowed a certain amount of sensitivity and compassion, creating an unlikely alliance with a native that leads to a precarious sense of safety as the warrior considers a new life for himself amongst the natives. There are some dumb thrills to be had with the hyper-violent "Centurion," but it was released around the same time as "The Eagle," a movie that covers much of the same historical ground but has a nifty, boys-adventure novel feel (instead of the nearly pornographic levels of bloodshed in "Centurion") and didn't really find even the niche audience it was going for. It’s not Fassbender's best movie or performance by a long shot, but it's still worth watching, if only to see the actor's action chops post-"300" but before he became one of the X-Men. [C+]

Honorable Mention
Recently Fassbender reteamed with director and ex-Beta Band-er John Maclean for a second short film, following 2009's "Man on a Motorcycle." The newer one, "Pitch Black Heist" is a very enjoyable 12-minute two-hander between Fassbender and Irish national treasure Liam Cunningham, and it augurs well for their next collaboration on the upcoming feature-length western, also to star Ben Mendelsohn and Kodi Smit-McPhee, called "Slow West." For now, though, in case all this Fassbender talk has gotten you hot under the collar with no outlet till you can make it to the theater this evening, we'll leave you with a small dose to tide you over in the shape of this 2003 Guinness commercial for Ireland:

-- Jessica Kiang, Drew Taylor and Rodrigo Perez