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Entertaining medieval gore-fest with great actors, but predictable plot and dialogue!
on July 20, 2011
Note, some spoilers follow.
Ironclad is your typical formulaic medieval movie; a motley band of brave warriors makes last stand against overwhelming forces led by evil, despotic ruler. Warriors are slowly whittled down to just a few, with the hero and the cleavage-baring princess sharing smoldering glances.
Ironclad is unique in the strength of its cast, despite its small budget. You have Brian Cox, James Purefoy (how far he has fallen since Rome!), Derek Jacobi, Jason Flemyng, Paul Giamatti, Charles Dance (plays Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones), Kate Mara (who replaced Megan Fox), and one of the pirates of the Caribbean who plays a Legolas-type role. Paul Giamatti is entertaining in his over-the-top role as the murderous King John, bent on killing all who forced him to sign the Magna Carta. However, even with the star-studded cast, the storyline is insufficient to keep the movie together. We're left with brutal action sequences, but even the action sequences were only average. They used too much "shaky-cam" footage, leaving this viewer with a slight headache.
It's clear that Ironclad takes liberties with historical events, but I do have to give them credit for at least alluding to those historical events. For example, historically, the Rochester Castle keep was undermined with fat from 40 pigs. However, in the movie, whole pigs were burned to undermine the keep (which would have made a delicious barbecue). Historically, King John did cut off the hands and feet of surrendering rebels, and we certainly see that here in rather gory detail. Historically, King John starved the rebels into submission, and in the movie, we do see some effects of starvation.
Ironclad isn't an Oscar-winning picture by any stretch, but it's an entertaining movie. Sure, it might be formulaic, but it's fun watching Purefoy hack through scores of woad-like blue Danes with his historically inaccurate five foot long Zweihander. I rate it 3.5 stars (more than generous) because the film tried to push the limits of its small budget.
**I had some concerns about the extreme level of gore in the movie. Most of the violence has digital blood added in, but there are several gory bits that one should be aware of. A tongue is chopped off, a limb is repeatedly hacked by a blunt instrument until severed, said severed limb is used to beat another enemy combatant, a man is chopped in half, faces are crushed, a man's collarbone is hacked repeatedly, throats sliced, abdomens opened, hands/feet lopped off, and corpses tossed against buildings. Ironclad is definitely not for the faint of heart.