......... Amazons & Gladiators
.................
Set during the times of the Roman Empire, 18 year old Sephora is helped by the legendary Amazons to escape slavery. Trained by the female fighters in the art of war, she soon leads the Amazons into battle against Roman Military Governor Crassius, to free all slaves and avenge the death of her parents .

Director: Zachary Weintraub (The New Adventures of Robin Hood)
Producers: Fred Weintraub and Tom Kuhn (Undertow, Backstreet Justice)
Cinematographer: Thomas Hencz (The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Boys from Madrid)
Editor: Neil Kirk (The New Adventures of Robin Hood, Diner)
Stunt Coordinator: Richard Norton (American Ninja)
Cast: Patrick Bergin (Sleeping With The Enemy, Patriot Games), Richard Norton (License To Kill), and introducing Nicole M. Hiltz


Full Synopsis

Sixty years before the birth of Christ, the Emperor Julius Caesar "rewards" one of his most successful and popular generals, Marcus Crassius, with the Governorship of a territory far from Rome. The ambitious and crafty Crassius recognizes Caesar's ploy to get a possible rival out of the way. Still, he has no choice but to obey the Emperor and sets out to transform the "flea-bitten province in the middle of nowhere" into a little slice of Rome. To that end, the innately cruel Crassius employs slaves to build his mansion and amuse him by killing each other in the local gladiators' arena. And when the supply dwindles, he simply invades another village and enslaves its inhabitants.

* * *

It is in one such village that we meet Serena, a beautiful twelve-year-old tomboy wielding a wooden sword, pretending to be an Amazon princess. She doesn't know it, but destiny dictates that she will become a hero and savior to her people. On this day, Crassius and his troops pillage and loot her peaceful village. Crassius himself kills Serena's father as he tries to save his other daughter, sixteen-year-old Gwyned, from abduction. Serena picks up her fallen father's scythe and tries to fend off the soldiers who would kill her mother. So amused is Crassius by the young girl's spirit that he concocts a cruel game to test her courage and will. But it's a game Serena cannot possibly win, and it results in the death of her mother. As Serena is led away from the evil Crassius, we witness in the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl, all the revenge a young soul can muster.

Separated from her older sister, Serena wakes from a fever-induced delirium at a slave market where she is sold to an aged Dance Master. The old man carts her off to his camp where she is to become the new water girl, serving his troop of slave dancers. There she meets and befriends the current water girl, Briana.

Soon we find the girls pouring wine for party guests at a Roman bath, where the dancers are performing under the watchful eye of the Dance Master. Briana is showing Serena the ropes, and pointing out that the dancers are sometimes permitted to keep the generous tips, which are dropped down their cleavage by drunken male guests. Briana hopes to earn enough money as a dancer to buy her freedom and join the legendary Zenobia, Queen of the Amazons.

TEN YEARS LATER. Briana and Serena are now dancers performing at the same Roman bath. Serena, clearly the most beautiful and graceful dancer of the lot, is spied by a fat, drunken Roman Senator who pays the Dance Master a tidy sum for the pleasure of deflowering her. Left alone with the Senator, Serena tries to ward off his advances. They are interrupted by armed guards who escort three leather-clad women prisoners before the Senator. These are captured Amazons, led by Ione, a tall, muscular warrior. The Senator plans to torture these enemies of Rome, but first he intends to rape Serena in front of them. Serena fights back and manages to stab and kill the Senator with the spike of a candlestick holder. The Amazons overpower their guards and escape, taking Serena and Briana with them.

The two young women are brought back to the Amazon camp where they are welcomed into this matriarchal community founded on freedom and sisterhood. The stern, tough-as-nails Ione, they are told, is the head of the Amazon forces and a favorite of Zenobia, the Queen of all the Amazons. And so Briana and Serena begin their training to become true Amazons. In a training montage, we see that Briana is typically clumsy, but shows gradual improvement. Serena is a revelation. Her skill with sword and bow is remarkable, but Ione can see that Serena's true potential is hampered by her inner demons — her deep motive of revenge — and thus rides her harder than the others, goading her towards excellence.

In the meantime, we return to the house of Marcus Crassius, which is run by his Mistress, a beautiful and familiar looking woman slave who is also Crassius' lover. Crassius and the Mistress amuse themselves by wagering against each other on whose chosen Gladiator will be victorious in their local arena. Despite the pleasures of senseless killing, Crassius is still determined to return to Rome. Plotting with other enemies of Caesar, he devises a way to recapture the Emperor's good favor. All he has to do is wipe out the Amazons and kill their leader; thus ending another nuisance to the Empire.

Back at the Amazon camp, Briana and Serena are inducted into the sisterhood of Amazons. Serena is particularly singled out for honor after an incident where she single-handedly killed two men who sneaked into camp and attempted to rape her. Shortly thereafter, Ione leads Briana and Serena on their first mission. They travel to a peaceful, hidden village in the woods - the home of Queen Zenobia, the wise and compassionate leader of the Amazons. There they also meet Lucius, the handsome and dashing head of Zenobia's private guards. Serena and Briana are confused by the presence of a man in such a trusted position among Amazons, but Zenobia teaches them that her philosophy is more about equality than superiority. The mutual attraction between Serena and Lucius is tempered by Serena's life-long distrust of men. Still, their flirtation does not go unnoticed by Ione, who apparently shares a special and long-standing relationship with Lucius.

The next day the Amazons and Lucius' guards set out on their mission to escort Zenobia to the distant village of Grey Haven, where she is to preside over a trial. Along the way, the group stops to make camp, and Lucius comes upon Serena practicing with her sword. The two begin to spar, playfully and flirtatiously, but the competition escalates. Ultimately Lucius wins the fight and Serena returns to her tent. There she is surprised by old B'shara, a mysterious Amazon mystic who has been observing her for some time. B'shara offers her an elixir to soothe her aches. Serena drinks the liquid and falls into a dream state. She hears B'shara's voice calling her "The Chosen One," instructing her in the ways of harnessing the power of her gender; the energy of the earth, and the wind, and the creatures of nature… And in her sleep, Serena sees the abstract animal images invoked by B'shara and in this way absorbs the teachings that will eventually make her a great Amazon warrior.

The next day on the trail, the entourage is ambushed by brutal, well-trained soldiers sent by Marcus Crassius. The Amazons and guards fight hard and well, and ultimately repel the attackers, but Serena finds herself fighting to the death a huge, brawny soldier whom she seems to recognize. He is Gallo, Crassius' right hand man, who was a party to the death of her parents and disappearance of her sister years before. He is a treacherous opponent, but B'shara's dream teaching kicks in and Serena displays an amazing fighting ability and kills Gallo.

Later, despite the apparent rift between them because of Lucius, Ione and Serena compare notes. Ione also recognized Gallo and is able to provide Serena for the first time with the name of the man he served, the man who killed her parents - Marcus Crassius. It turns out Ione's family was also killed by Crassius. Ione then explains her relationship with Lucius - they grew up together and had a child together, but are now just friends - and urges Serena to open to the only man she ever trusted.

Serena goes to Lucius' tent and they make love. But early the next morning, Serena slips out, bids good-bye to Ione and Zenobia, and rides off to hunt down Crassius. Once on the trail, she is surprised when Briana catches up with her. The two friends set off together. Little do they know, Crassius is lying in wait in Grey Haven. When Zenobia's entourage enters the village, they are ambushed again by even more well armed soldiers and archers, led by Crassius himself. The entourage is hopelessly outnumbered, and we see Queen Zenobia killed in a hail of arrows.

Days later Serena and Briana finally find their way to Crassius' gated town. They come upon their old dance troop, camped in the woods outside the town, still lorded over by the nasty old Dance Master. The girls don their old dance clothes and gain access to the town as part of the troop. Once inside the gates, they infiltrate a party at the Governor's mansion, where Crassius is hosting a celebration of his magnificent victory over the murderous Amazons.

Serena comes face to face with Crassius at the party, but in that moment can't bring herself to kill him cold-bloodedly. Briana drags her away from the party, because the Dance Master has blown their cover, and the guards are looking for them. Sneaking down a corridor, they come upon the governor's Mistress in the kitchen, yelling at a slave girl and raising her hand to strike her. Serena grabs the Mistress' hand — and in that moment — recognizes her as her sister, Gwyned, whom Serena calls by name. Gwyned looks frightened for a moment, then shrieks for the guards.

Crassius has the girls thrown in the dungeon of the arena, where the next day they will be forced to fight as Gladiators. In the blackness of the dungeon they are reunited with Lucius, who was captured at Grey Haven. Serena and Lucius share thoughts about what is to come.

The next day: The first tournament is a free-for-all, wherein the arena is filled with armed slaves, and the last man standing wins. Briana has escaped this event, but Serena and Lucius are forced to fight, and ultimately end up the last two standing. Refusing to fight Serena, Lucius throws down his sword and, by Crassius' order, is killed by an archer's arrow.

That night, Gwyned comes to the dungeon and confirms that Serena is indeed her sister. She rationalizes her relationship with Crassius, but still slips Serena a key to the cell, and a dagger, so Serena can effect her escape. She chooses not to.

The next day, Crassius has pitted Serena against Briana. Only the winner will live. If they refuse to fight, they are both thrown to the lions. The two friends pretend to fight, but actually recreate their old dance routines…only with swords. Crassius is not fooled and repeats his ultimatum. Serena challenges him to fight her. Briana tries to restrain Serena, but Serena gets angry and beats Briana to the ground. Crassius is delighted and taunts her, saying he will fight Serena if she kills her fellow Amazon. In a moment of madness, Serena plunges her sword into Briana's stomach and withdraws it, covered with blood. Guards carry away Briana's limp body and throw it in the dungeon.

Briana, who only feigned death with the help of a concealed wine sack, climbs to her feet. With the key Gwyned supplied, Briana starts unlocking cells and freeing the gladiator slaves.

In the arena, the battle between Crassius and Serena begins, when suddenly Gwyned throws herself between the two and begs Crassius not to kill her sister. It is only then that Crassius realizes that Serena was the little girl from years before. With little thought, Crassius kills Gwyned. Serena drops to her knees and cradles her dead sister, as Crassius raises his sword to cut off Serena's head.

Just then Briana and hundreds of freed slaves come running into the arena, as a distracted Crassius quickly orders his archers to open fire. But suddenly, several cloaked figures come up behind the archers and slit their throats. Throwing off their cloaks, the mysterious assassins reveal themselves to be Ione and her Amazon comrades.

Now Serena and Crassius are left to battle each other one on one. Crassius gains the upper hand against her, but Serena manages to summon her remarkable B'shara-taught skills, and in an almost impossible maneuver, deals the deathblow to Crassius. Her revenge is complete.

Epilogue.

Back in Zenobia's hidden village where peace and equality prevail, we see Ione bringing a new set of Amazon recruits to meet the Queen. Dressed in Zenobia's robes, the new Queen approaches. Her name is Serena, "The Chosen One."

Friday, November 10, 2000