An over-earnest ‘war-is-hell’ Medieval Western in which leading knight Templar James Purefoy (Solomon Kane, Following) is acted off-screen by old Shakespearean stagers Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi and Charles Dance; Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook and Jamie Foreman play Falstaff’s taverners from Henry V; and Paul Giamatti in full rant as King John loses his temper along with his English accent.
R-rated, drenched in blood and gore, and yet it still feels like overgrown boy scouts playing in the dressing up box but with sharper toys. Despite allusions to The Alamo, Battle of the Bulge, and just about every Samurai movie you can name, it’s closer to King Arthur, Centurion, The Eagle and John McTiernan’s equally daft Thirteenth Warrior, but it’s still no Seven Samurai or Gladiator.
Based on, or at least inspired by, the historical siege of Rochester Castle, Ironclad lacks a decent budget or script, instead it goes for buckets of blood and much testosterone-fuelled growling. When the King’s Danish mercenaries slap on the blue woad, you realise you’ve been watching the English Braveheart all along.
Most of the CGI castle stands up in a misty English landscape – better than the script which takes an interesting view of Magna Carta; framed as the Declaration of Independence, no doubt for American audiences – not that they would understand the accents if they caught this.
The mud is real, the rain clearly is not. The dirt and blood is liberally splashed about, yet everyone in Medieval England has good teeth.
Purefoy does well in an under-written part as the disillusioned crusader, showing just where Nicholas Cage went wrong in Season of the Witch. As the titular hero and man of even fewer words than in Solomon Kane, gets even less screen time than immaculate leading lady Kate Mara (Shooter, House of Cards).
Strictly a genre movie for swords and axe fans, it has a few visceral fight scenes and a lot that is just exploitative and tacky, for which no worthy sentiments or Sands of Iwo Jima moments can adequately compensate.
Director: Jonathan English
Writers: Jonathan English, Erick Kastel
Running time: 2 hr. 1 min.
Genre: Action & Adventure
Cast: James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Charles Dance, Derek Jacobi, Paul Giamatti, Kate Mara
Related: Review: Centurion