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Seneca – On the Creation of Earthquakes 2023 Movie Review
The big name factor of John Malkovich, along with his involvement in the likes of Con Air and the Red films, mean that Seneca – On the Creation of Earthquakes could conceivably tempt some viewers to leave their mainstream comfort zone and try something different – because it is definitely something different. Whether the hypothetical viewers would make it to the end is another matter; on reflection, probably not. This bombastic hot mess of a production is undoubtedly going to polarise.
Seneca (John Malkovich), the great philosopher of Ancient Rome, has fallen out of favour with the sociopathic emperor Nero (Tom Xander). Implicated in an attempted assassination, Seneca is given a choice: kill himself by morning, or be killed in the most brutal, painful and generally degrading way possible. Seneca and his assorted loved ones, friends, hangers-on and sycophants argue their way to a decision.
It was during the original Red movie in 2010 that director Robert Schwentke first worked with Malkovich, and this is an unpredictable choice of material for their followup. Occasionally feeling like a companion piece to Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans (without the jokes), Seneca presents an abstract version of Ancient Rome, which fits the mood and is far more cost-effective. Sets are unfinished, with deliberate modern touches (one young slave appears to be wearing cargo shorts), and the cast prance around in costumes that look suspiciously like they were made from bedsheets and cardboard. The movie is anachronistic, if not quite punk, and becomes even weirder when one realises that the filmmaker’s most recent effort was Snake Eyes: GI Joe Origins.
Watching John Malkovich elocute loudly and excitedly for 112 minutes may be a task too great for some, but the structure of the film rewards patience in allowing it to weave its strange magic (though its star may need a dental checkup after chewing all that scenery). The novelty might wear off by the time the credits roll, but the fantastic recklessness of this unconventional biopic deserves praise.