Action / Adventure / History / Romance


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September 14, 2012 at 04:25 AM


Kate Mara as Lady Isabel
Paul Giamatti as King John
Charles Dance as Archbishop Langton
James Purefoy as Thomas Marshal
799.31 MB
23.976 fps
2hr 1 min
P/S 10 / 38

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by syntinen 1 / 10

Certainly worth watching

If you've always wanted to see what if would look like if someone hacked off another guy's arm and bashed him over the head with the soggy end (yes, really), Ironclad is probably the film you've been waiting for all your life.

Otherwise, it is a waddling armour-plated turkey; after its very limited release it's likely to go straight to DVD for the benefit of adolescents who enjoy graphic violence for its own sake.

Jonathan English, the writer and director, read the interpretive panels at Rochester Castle and said "Wow! The bloodiest siege in English history! Hands and feet lopped off! Pigs slaughtered! We can make a Really Gritty and Realistic Movie out of this! Show what medieval violence was Really Like!"

Except of course they didn't, and perhaps couldn't; because the thing about sieges is that they consist of hundreds of people occasionally fighting each other, parleying or lobbing rocks and boiling oil at each other, but mostly just sitting about starving for a Very Long Time. To make a gripping film about that would take a truly gifted and original storyteller, which these guys are not. So they started putting in stuff to spice it up, and be damned not only to history but common sense too.

- It's established at the outset that the rebels . So you'd think they'd send all their forces there, yes? Er, no. One baron collects together four oddball Old Comrades, his naive young squire, and a Templar Knight with a 5 ½-foot two-hand sword (yes, just like Braveheart, never mind that those won't exist for 100 years at least) who has lost his faith on Crusade; and the seven of them ride off to hold Rochester against John's army.

- When they get there, they find that the elderly castellan, in spite of there being a civil war on, has only got six soldiers to man it (and a hot young wife, naturally).

- And (because "Flemish mercenaries" and "John's French vassals" doesn't sound evil enough) John's army consists of pagan Danes (never mind that in 1215 Denmark had been Christian for centuries) who prepare themselves for battle by painting themselves blue (yes, just like Braveheart again; never mind that Danes never did that).

- Historically, John ordered forty pigs slaughtered and their fat rendered down to create a blaze in the undermine that collapsed one of the towers of the castle. But that would have been too dull, so the pigs are driven straight into the mine and burned alive. Never mind that that wouldn't work – it's badass, right?

The characters are so badly written that even good actors can only walk through their parts. The Magnificent Seven don't have personalities, just attributes: the Angry Sexy One, the Foul-Mouthed Brawler, the Unimpressive One with the Special Skill, the one who had retired to farm and look after his kids but comes back for One Last Mission… And all the stuff they are given to do is drawn from such hoary clichés as: - Both the director and James Purefoy (who plays the Templar) have explicitly called this a "medieval Magnificent Seven"; either not realising or not caring that in MS and SS there's a good reason why there are only seven assorted misfits holding off the powers of badness, but none whatever in Ironclad. It would pass in a sword-&-sorcery or wuxia flick, but not in what's supposed to be historical one.

- Hero goes over the wall without a word to anyone, everyone thinks he's deserting but no, he has gone to steal supplies from the enemy? Tick.

- Two of the Old Comrades meet, one promptly thumps the other, we're supposed to brace ourselves for a big brawl but no, they laugh and embrace each other? Tick.

- The idealistic young lad is told "kill the women if the baddies get in" but can't bring himself to do it? Tick.

Yawn, yawn, yawn. You don't give a stuff about any of the characters, mainly because you don't for a moment believe in them. It's pure cartoon: but because the makers thought they were making a "gritty" "realistic" film, it's a dull sludge-coloured cartoon - the colour is so washed out it looks like a badly-degraded old print in need of restoration.

In addition to all this there are random packets of stupid:

- John has a scenery-chewing rant about the Divine Right of Kings in which he claims that his ancestors have ruled England for 'thousands of years'. Shome mishtake there, shurely?

- As soon as the siege starts, the lovely chatelaine puts on a very low-cut metal-studded leather corset, with bare arms, and spends the entire siege dressed like that. I think it was supposed to be armour, but it just looks like fetish wear. (All the costuming is pretty iffy, because the desire to make things look realistically squalid and medieval has clashed with the desire to scatter them with cool-looking bits of metalwork and stuff.)

The fictional characters' names are so inappropriate and un-medieval it's as though the production team picked them by opening the telephone directory at random, or raised money to make the film by auctioning off the right to name a character after your uncle: e.g. Marks, Phipps, Jedediah. And the blue-painted pagan Danish chief is called – wait for it – Tiberius. Why?

If English & Co had admitted to themselves that they weren't making a historical film but a hack 'n bash cartoon, they could have thrown in a few Orcs, a Chinese swordfight heroine or a Tim the Enchanter, and sent it up rotten. Then this film could have been tacky late-night fun. As it is – meh.

Reviewed by Spikeopath 8 / 10

Rascal King John and the Medieval Magnificent Seven.

Ironclad is directed by Jonathan English who also wrote the story and co-adapts the screenplay with Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool. It stars James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook, Jamie Foreman and Vladimir Kulich. Music is scored by Lorne Balfe and cinematography by David Eggby.

1215 and having been forced to sign the Magna Carta, King John (Giamatti) enlists an army of Danish mercenaries and plots revenge against all involved. As John lays bloody waste to the South of England, a small band of rebels led by William d'Aubigny (Cox), plot to defend the Southern stronghold of Rochester Castle in the hope they can delay John long enough for the French army to arrive from the sea to depose him.

The history, as is often the case in movies of this ilk, is sketchy and exaggerated, we are in true cinematic granted licence here as Rochester Castle is defended by less then 20 men and a couple of gals (in truth there was a considerable army defending Rochester). Yet Ironclad's sheer willingness to blend historical and period notices with blood and mud is very appealing to the swords and shields genre fan. The recreation of 13th century England is most impressive, as is the adherence to the brutality of the times. Armour and swords do clank with aural sharpness, quickly followed by blood and dismemberment; the body horror is certainly not in short supply throughout the running time. The colour is deliberately muted to capture a realistic feel, and although the shaky-cam technique used for the fight scenes (is this now written in the historical epic director's 101 handbook?) will irritate many, it does aid the grit and grue atmosphere that director English goes for. In fact he has achieved much with only a modest budget.

A splendid cast has assembled for the production, all thankfully attired with thought from the costume department. Purefoy cuts a fine rugged figure of machismo, brooding for all he's worth as he battles not only the enemy, but also his own duel with his Templar faith. Cox is, no surprise, full of gusto and leadership qualities, and the likes of Flemyng (whore chaser as brave as a lion), Crook (ace archer) and Foreman (no fear thief) add considerable grungy brawn to proceedings. Charles Dance and Jacobi lend thespian support and Kulich is a towering presence as axe wielding leader of the Danes, Tiberius. Highlight, though, is Giamatti. True enough to say that as written it's a portrait of a vicious King we have seen plenty of times before, but Giamatti elevates this one to better heights with a glint in his eye and thunderous moments of anger. For his delivery of "I am God's right hand" speech this begs respect. His accent holds as well, always a bonus is that.

Where the picture falls down is with a script that contains duff passages of dialogue and the obligatory romance thread. Poor Kate Mara (stepping in when Megan Fox scampered from the production), it's a thankless role that basically asks her to turn the head of Purefoy's Templar Knight, hitch up her skirt and look wistful from time to time, while having Cox bellow out that John "is no more a King than the boil on my arse" hinders rather than aids the mood. But English and the makers get away with the missteps because it's such good rousing fun, a nifty blend of religion, politics and bloody war. The siege itself is very well orchestrated, as catapult engines bombard the castle, arrows penetrate the sky, men leap around on fire or scolded by hot oil, and there's interesting facts and tricks etched into the narrative too (burning of pigs a weapon of war?!). It may never quite reach the ambitions it sets itself, but in an era when swords and shields movies are in short supply, it's an entertaining and bloody romp for sure. 7.5/10

Reviewed by Kim Hagey ([email protected]) 6 / 10

pretty good

I don't know what people are talking about here ...

This was a great movie, lots of action, and over the top blood and gore.

Sure, some of the acting was a bit off, and it was all mud and blood but that's what the mid-evil times was , mud and dirt and lots of crap.

The lead actor was excellent for being a lost soul and the wife of the keep keeper was beautiful and what you'd expect from being locked up alone with and old man.

Over all I really liked it. If you want a bit of fun and an easy to watch movie without over analyzing it too pieces then go for it.

You won't be sorry.

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