Blood, gore and a Mayan treasure from Mel Gibson

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The tempestuous life and times of Mel Gibson look unlikely to change with the US release next week of his new film Apocalypto.

Mel Gibson leads the way for a difficult location shot in Apocalypto

He has delivered an epic, distributed by Disney, with dialogue in the Mayan dialect of Yucatec and which takes screen violence to a new level. Watching Apocalypto, one has to wonder what dark torments drive Gibson to depict such horrifically graphic scenes of torture and cruelty.

This grim, gory adventure is set 600 years ago in the midst of the mysterious decline of the Mayan civilisation and although Gibson uses subtitles, he relies mainly on visual storytelling and the ancient music of the Maya to unfold his gruesome tale.

Throats are slit in slow motion, hearts are plucked from living bodies, heads lopped off and headless bodies hurled down pyramid steps in scenes of human sacrifice that are stomach-churningly difficult to watch.

Some victims die long, lingering deaths. The lucky ones are dispatched with a few blows from a wooden club, albeit amid gushes of blood.

At least two dozen people walked out of a screening I attended in Los Angeles. In fairness to Gibson, it must be said that Apocalypto, as well as being barbarously brutal, is also powerful, compelling, beautifully photographed and an unquestionably fine exercise in film-making....

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