"You need some serious fookin' balls, man," Colin Farrell has said about playing Alexander the Great, the Macedonian warrior who conquered almost all of the known world by the time he was 25, thereby transforming himself from a hero into a legend into a myth. Apparently, you also need a dye job and what ancient historians called a "melting look" in your eyes. And here is where Farrell, despite a slight resemblance to Goldilocks, seems more than suitable. He doesn't usually play guys you'd want to follow into battle, but he does play guys you want to follow anywhere else. He's a pretty boy and a bit of an imp. But as the title character in Alexander, Oliver Stone's Freudian freak show of an epic, he seems sadly miscast. Though squeezing his balls as hard as he can, he just doesn't seem serious enough.
Neither does the movie. Alas, it doesn't seem not-serious enough either. Instead, it veers precariously be tween serious drama and camp. Most of what we know about Alexander the Great, other than that he cut a bloody swath from the Balkans to the Himalayas, comes to us from accounts written hundreds of years after his death, which leaves us wondering exactly why he spent his entire life on the move. Was he a travel nut? Did he want to unite the world into one vast multicultural empire? Or is he a mama's boy whose particular mama (the slitheringly seductive Angelina Jolie) never goes anywhere without a venomous snake wrapped around her? Sometimes, as Freud should have said, a snake is just a snake. Not here. Stone's Alexander is locked in an Oedipal struggle that would have left Freud screaming "Enough, already."
Stone has been criticized for watering down Alexander's mano-a-mano combat in the bedroom, but what's left certainly qualifies as moist. Just the glances between Farrell and Jared Leto (as the one true love of Alexander's life) would make a gigolo blush, and only partly because both actors are working their eyebrows overtime. Stone's Alexander is, in modern terms, a bisexual, and although the movie makes him out to be a tortured soul who never quite understands why he does anything (including conquering the world), the torture has nothing to do with liking men as much as he likes women. And when you compare Alexander to Troy, which turned Achilles and Patroclus into cousins - not kissing cousins, mind you, just plain old cousins - you have to credit Stone with some serious fookin' balls.
What you can't credit him with is a sword-and-sandal extravaganza on a par with Gladiator. Alexander isn't an epic disaster, but like Alexander's years-long campaign, it's a bit of a slog, clocking in at just under three hours. The battle scenes are routinely spectacular, but lost in the thick clouds of dust is any real idea of what Alexander is trying to achieve. That goes for the movie as a whole.