I Watched It for You: Tom Hardy, Minotaur (2006)
Now I'm going to make you suffer with me.
This is the first in a series wherein I detail my torturous (or not-so-torturous) experience watching little-known early films featuring some of today’s most beloved geeky actors and/or filmmakers and detailing my reaction to it. The first falls on the torturous end of the scale: Minotaur, starring Tom Hardy.
The year is 2006. Tom Hardy’s career is dead in the United States. This is due not only to the fact that he’s alienated everyone who’d helped what modest success he did have in the early 2000’s, but owing to his arrest record in the UK, he is not actually allowed a visa to enter the United States, period. Bad cinnamon roll. So his mid-naughties (as they’d call it in his native land) consisted of a string of made-for-TV movies and janky little European co-productions. His first role as a … leading man.
Initially, I marveled at the fact that Minotaur had the coveted 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, only to realize that this was only because nobody considered it worthy of review. I wouldn’t have even heard of it but for an interview Tom Hardy did on the Jonathan Ross show in 2012, where the host told Mr. Hardy that he was about to drag out some dark relic from the actor’s past (it turned out to be footage from a modeling contest he’d won in his teens). Upon seeing this, Mr. Hardy seemed almost relieved. “It could have been Minotaur,” he said, chewing his fingers in embarrassment. “That would have been so much worse.”
Challenge accepted, my precious cinnamon roll. Challenge. Accepted.
Minotaur doesn’t even shoot the moon of bad-bad back to awesome-bad. It might have seen awesome-bad somewhere in the distance and looked longingly at what it could never be.
When I sit down to watch Minotaur for the first time, there is no decent alcohol left in my apartment—only some souvenir whiskey a friend got me from Japan. The bottle wears kitschy samurai armor, and it’s the worst whiskey I ever had. It tastes like Tom Hardy’s wig in this movie. It is no more than I deserve.
This movie is pretty hard to track down even in the world of streaming—eventually, I had to settle for actually paying for a VOD rental on YouTube. Not Netflix, not Amazon, not even Hulu Plus—YouTube VOD. And doubtless, we were the first people to rent Minotaur in a long time, and there’s someone on the backend of LionsgateVOD like, “Who the fuck is watching Minotaur?”
It was I, LionsgateVOD. The hero you need was not available. I’m the hero you deserve.
Let’s do this.
The film starts with a totally-not-ripped-off-from-Lord of the Rings prologue (map and all) where the narrator explains why there even is a Minotaur in the first place. This kingdom worships The Bull, see, but they want something more tangible to worship than this abstract concept of “bull.” So they ask the queen to literally fuck a literal bull, which she does in the most porn parody way imaginable.
This movie is a low-rent rip off of everything, but it doesn’t have the sadistic glee you see in most mid-aughts SyFy Channel-grade ripoffs. It’s full of sex and violence and blood and gore but runs through all of it with the disinterested, “welp, might as well” obligation of trudging to a Blue Law-town grocery store after they’ve stopped selling beer for the night. There is no Grindhouse-style joy in the shamelessness here. Here there are only resigned sighs.
Thirteen months later, the happy day arrives alongside the most stabby offscreen c-section imaginable. So, bye, Queenie.
Now, this may look like an unintentional hilarity goldmine, but let me be clear: this is about as boring as an evil fetal bunny-bull can get.
So baby Minotaur gets chucked in a labyrinth under the palace, and somehow or other the presence of this horrible bull person chimaera strengthens the “power of the empire,” and I assume worship is involved in some way, shape or form.
Flash forward to, like, Norway or Patagonia or Maine or some shit—I don’t know—hand ere’s a quaint shepherd village in which Empire of the Bull (which consists entirely of sexualized, deviant POC (we’ll get to that) exerts their might over the likes of Theo’s village, which consists entirely of—you guessed it—white people. That’s where Tom Hardy comes in. He plays Theo. Theo is our …. …. …. lead character?
Oh. Oh, bless his heart.
So I, like so many, only just realized in early 2015 that, yes, Tom Hardy is a beautiful human being. He’s like if an elf that was stolen from Mirkwood as a youngling and raised to be a bare knuckles fighter. Tom Hardy is just an aggressively pretty human being such to the point that it appears to make Tom Hardy uncomfortable, as evidenced by several years of aggressively unflattering MySpace selfies.
How did they manage to take this creature of bottomless compelling beauty and turn him into this in a way that I assume was not deliberate?
Yeah, so this is our lead. Faramir’s understudy’s understudy.
So the Empire of the Bull has this sort of Hunger Games-style lottery going where they have to grab some kids and sacrifice them every month or whatever. What is the cutoff for a “youth” in this universe? Well, Tom Hardy would have been pushing thirty around the time this movie was shot. So.
Theo is sad because his girlfriend got culled during the last sacrifice to The Bull. We know this, because Theo tells his dad Dolph Lundgren this fact in a scene between father and son like a gritty retelling of the “tracts of land” scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Tom Hardy even has that character’s awful, awful hair from the original scene.
Actually, I take it back. Theo’s hair is way worse.
So if you know fuck-all about Greek mythology, you know that it’s Theseus who defeats the Minotaur, not Tom Hardy in a bad wig. And therefore as you stumble limply through this film, you start to wonder, why not just make the lead Theseus? Like, why not Theseus? Why do they need to create this dull as stale saltless saltines in the form of Theo instead of just using Theseus, y’know, the guy who actually defeated the damn Minotaur?
Do they not understand how many Tom Hardy movies I’m going to have to watch before I begin to forget this wig?
So anyway. There’s a few bizarre scenes before we get on with it where we get to know our Tributes—thirty-year-olds pretending to be teenagers all. They all hate Theo because he gets a special exemption because he’s Dolph Lundgren’s son or something. I could name and detail these cannon fodder characters, but you know what? I’m going to continue my screed about Tom Hardy’s wig.
It will be horrible, then he’ll turn his head to the side and it’s like, “Agggh,” and you didn’t realize it could get worse, and it gets worse. Like some in-universe Patriarch decreed, “What kind of a man ties all of his hair? No, here is a real man, who will only tie a portion.”
Someone went through a process, several wigs, some Teamster, or whatever the Hell they have in Luxembourg eventually landed on this head contusion of a monstrosity and went, “Yep, that’s the one! That’s our hero.”
I paid money for this.
Anyway, even after we introduce the bull fodder, then comes the Empire of the Bull to steal a group of thirtysomething teenagers to be sacrificed to the Bull. Theo decides to duck in with this group of sacrifices because a … psychic leper or whatever told him his girlfriend is still alive.
Theo reveals that he has stowed away to his fellow Tributes in the most bored way imaginable. He has a … moment(?) with the Piggy of the group—I assume this was supposed to pass as warmth, but since Tom has decided to forgo effort, it’s just weird. And I can’t help but wonder if maybe his agent told him that he needed to tone it down a peg, or something? Because say what you want about Tom Hardy, he doesn’t usually phone it in.
It’s okay, Tom Hardy. We all make bad decisions. You could be like me: thirty-years-old and watching Minotaur on LionsgateVOD.
Here we have arrived at the labyrinth, and now we can dive head first on the uncomfortably exoticized non-white deviant baddies that dominate the rest of the movie.
Empire of the Bull is lead by Not-Xerxes, who appears to be wearing a losing entry to one of those duct tape prom dress contests. Since we’re ripping off everything, he also cribs from Gladiator, because he wants to do his sister.
So the … exoticized, sexualized POC drag in the … “young”
white people to the hole where the sacrifices ostensibly happen. And Not-Xerxes-Not-Commodus (let’s call him NXNC) drags one girl (she’s taken a vow of silence and that’s her one characteristic) and says, I’m going to sacrifice this young girl to The Bull. Theo says don’t, because, um, she’s a virgin and… …. …. ?
Not-Xerxes is like, “Okay,” so Queen Sister huffs some sex gas, breaths it into the two girls’ mouths, and …
So then the two virgins and Queen Sister are making out like Game of Thrones extras to add to the exoticism of the villains. This goes on for several minutes. 300 caught flack for this exact same thing—exotic minority lesbians and all. Did you ever think a movie would come along and make 300 look subtle? Minotaur, ladies and gents.
“Make them stop, Theo!” cries another cannon fodder. “Now’s the time!”
“No!” Theo insists. I am really unclear as to Theo’s strategy here, but then that would imply that he had one. Because nothing comes of this scene, other than the bad guys getting bored and sending the Tributes to a cell.
This is the Breakfast Club’s reaction, by the way.
They’re just waiting for the 1st AD to call lunch.
Later, NXNC’s sister decides that Theo is her best bet for … something something end the reign of terror. Remember that poorly-framed psychic leper? Well Queen Sister conspired with her to get Theo … because he could help … overthrow the … the bull … because Theo … ?
Anyway, how do we get Theo on board with this? Sexytimes, of course. “Release me from the beast,” begs Queen Sister once he gets all forceful with her. “All my pleasures will be yours.” Ugh.
Tom’s “I need an adult” face is a thing of beauty, but I honestly can’t tell if he was actually going for that or if the director just didn’t tell him they were rolling.
And I can’t even explain what’s so off about this scene. It’s like the camera angles are just wrong enough. It’s amazing how nothing I feel. Tom Hardy’s getting licked and fed grapes, and this is about as sexy as watching a roach motel getting cleaned out.
IN FAIRNESS, Queen Sister does end up being the most compelling thing about this movie. I mean, that’s kind of like picking the least moldy of the stale saltines, but uh … silver linin—no. I can’t.
Well, that goes tits up, and the Breakfast Club are all very gently lowered into the pit, because we couldn’t afford to hire a stunt man. Now we can be privileged to the damned CGI Minotaur. Behold.
The Bull’s modus operandi appears to be impaling his victims, dangling them on his horns, and then just abandoning them? I’m deeply confused as to how the Empire of the Bull derives power from this damn bull. We’re about halfway through the movie at this point. The rest of the movie is the cannon fodder getting picked off, and Tom Hardy not reacting.
It is at this point that you start to wonder if Tom Hardy is doing this movie under some form of duress, as though perhaps someone has kidnapped his mother, or his dog, and is holding them hostage until the terrible deed is done.
His performance is unwaveringly terrible. It doesn’t even ebb and flow. I’ve seen Tom Hardy in terrible movies, and he is never the one phoning it in. Even in Star Trek: Nemesis where he’s screeeaaaming because he’s eeeeevil and it’s just awaaaawful, at least he’s trying.
“Oh no, people might think I’m being too intense,” thought Tom Hardy. “Maybe I should tone it down a few hundred thousand notches for my first starring role.”
But when Queen Sister dives into the labyrinth, NXNC becomes concerned and tries to rescue her a few times. To pad the film, he even gets a monologue straight out of “50 Monologues for Male Actors.” NXNC puts like two toes in the labyrinth and then immediately gets over it.
This is one of those movies that Tobias Fünke would manage to get cast in.
Somewhere in here, our virgin who took the vow of silence breaks it. By screaming, “Minotaaaaaaur!” for like twenty seconds.
The tone she uses could just as easily work with “spring breeeaaaak!”
Hours of my life later, our troops find a Gurgi, who has managed to survive being impaled. Or a Gollum. Let’s be charitable and call him a Gurgi. GurgiGollum talks about the beast needing to “feed” so, yes, this is a carnivorous bull. Theo is convinced GurgiGollum knows where his girlfriend is, so he spends like five minutes brutalizing this guy. Does it pay off? Nope. Does it come back to haunt him? Nope. Does he learn anything? Nope.
Oh, right, somewhere along the line we’ve decided that we’re “man-is-the-real-monster”ing when everyone’s a super huge racist against Queen Sister, and also maybe the Minotaur is a victim? It falls a little flat when this pays off not at all, but then I remember that I’m watching Minotaur and drinking the worst whiskey on Earth, so I should probably at least donate the same amount I paid for this VOD ($2.99) to UNICEF or something.
Anyway, after brutalizing GurgiGollum, Theo finally finds the corpse of his girlfriend who was, yep, dead the whole time. He seems upset at this in the way one is upset at being served generic Froot Loops instead of the real, General Mills deal. And he’s not sad so much as annoyed.
Seriously, Tom Hardy, are we going to read a tragic story about the loan shark you owed money to in 2006?
How do we defeat the bull? Well, remember that lesbian sex gas from earlier? Turns out that was actually some paint huffing that naturally emitted from the Earth that … made women …
Well anyway, it’s flammable, and Theo and Queen Sister decide that the thing to do here is set the bull on fire. Which they do. Sort of. NXNC dies in the Lesbian Sex Gas explosion.
Our survivors include Queen Sister, Theo, Vow of Silence (turns out she’s the Galadriel voiceover lady from the beginning), and GurgiGollum. The movie ends with them just … chillin’. On the steps. Staring at the sunset. Don’t bother to wipe your face, Theo.
Queen Sister does survive, though, and I was genuinely surprised by that. Does this forgive the exoticized POC of Evil Sexiness? No. But it does make it less … awful than it could have been. She’s the least moldy Ding Dong in a pile of rat-chewed Ho-Ho’s.
So, what’s the point to all of this? I wish I had something poignant to say about the cheap way we exoticize and fetishize POC in historical “epics,” but really I will just watch anything with Tom Hardy in it. Any. Fucking. Thing.
Amazingly, this was not the worst movie I watched in my quest to get the entire Hardyography under my belt. But the depths to which he has sunk, we may discuss another day. Next time, we’ll look at someone else. Whose cringe-inducing early career would you like to peer into?
Lindsay is a writer and makes video essays on the hive of scum and villainy known as YouTube. Follow Lindsay on Twitter for more Tom Hardy musings.
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