Ironclad

2011

Action / Adventure

Synopsis


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Cast

Paul Giamatti as King John
Jason Flemyng as Gil Becket
Brian Cox as Baron William d'Aubigny
James Purefoy as Thomas Marshal
720p
799.31 MB
1280*720
English
R
English
23.976 fps
2hr 1 min
P/S 11 / 35

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Ced Yuen 5 / 10

Mud, blood and lots of ambition

There are plenty of lower-budget independent films that have gone on to be more critically acclaimed and more financially profitable than big-budget Hollywood pictures. What is rare, however, is an indie film that masquerades as one of these pictures. A self-labelled "all- star indie action blockbuster" and "inspired by history",'Ironclad' is such a film, trying to redefine the boundaries of British cinema.

Whether by intention or by coincidence, 'Ironclad' picks up a few years after the end of Ridley Scott's 'Robin Hood'. It is England, 1215. King John (Paul Giamatti) has been forced to sign the Magna Carta, which limits his power and ensures the freedom of men.

With the help of a Danish army, the King rampages across the country to regain absolute power. Baron Albany (Brian Cox) and a band of rebels take Rochester Castle in an attempt to stop the tyrant king. A siege takes place, and the rebels must hold the castle until reinforcements arrive.

The film certainly ticks many of the boxes of an action blockbuster. There's a clear "big bad guy vs. underdog good guy" vibe, plenty of action, and some veterans among the B-list cast. The $25 million budget, although pocket change in Hollywood, shows how badly this indie film wants to be big. A big film, however, is not necessarily a good film.

'Ironclad' is at its strongest when it comes to the physical side of things. It does not shy away from gory violence. Heads, hands and feet go flying, blood splatters all over the the camera's lens, and there's a particularly nasty bit involving a man and a catapult. The weapons feel like instruments of destruction rather than Medieval-chic accessories, and often succeed in making viewers wince.

The fight choreography is particularly impressive - characters look like soldiers trying to tear each others' hearts out, as opposed to actors trying to high-five each other's swords. The action sacrifices style and appearance for physicality and brutality, which results in a refreshing level of authenticity.

The 13th century England recreated looks good enough to fool anyone but a history buff. Giamatti and Cox play their roles with conviction and succeed in getting the story moving. Giamatti is particularly watchable, playing King John as an unhinged sadist.

The narrative is where 'Ironclad' falters. Fully aware that the film is essentially about a group of soldiers in a building, the writers have tried to spice things up. One of the rebels (James Purefoy) happens to be a Templar Knight. He regrets killing people for God, so he goes on a diet of silence and chastity, the latter of which is tested (of course) by the lady of the castle (Kate Mara). These are ill-advised attempts at emotional content and only serve to distract from what should have been a simpler, more polished affair.

Regrettably, the filmmakers decided to emulate that most repulsive staple of modern action blockbusters - the shaky-cam. Specifically namechecking 'Transformers 2' and the 'Bourne' sequels as influences (not a good sign), they decided to shake the picture to create "a very real sense of action".

What is achieved instead is a very real sense of frustration every time the action is made unnecessarily incoherent. Once again, the "Michael Bay Effect" has ruined a film that would have otherwise looked excellent, and wasted the work of an obviously talented action choreographer.

Despite its flaws, fans of mud'n'blood, hack'n'slash mini-epics will find plenty to like in 'Ironclad'. It is comparable to 'Robin Hood' despite costing $130 million less to make. Director Jonathan English wanted to create an action blockbuster. In terms of scale and ambition, he has succeeded. But blockbusters aren't perfect, and neither is this.

Reviewed by syntinen 1 / 10

An armour-plated turkey

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 cliches 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 Tiw Lado 6 / 10

OK, But is Jonathan English... English?

...And here's what I mean: The movie is absolutely watchable (if you are a fan of historical action, medieval theme and hack n' slash of course). The Battle scenes are shot perfectly. Costumes are not 100% authentic, but not so fantasy-driven as other "historical" movies tend to create these days, but: In places the movie raises the question: did the director any historical research prior to arm his team with cameras and lights or not at all? How, being English, is possible to not know own history if not in details, than at least to some degree? The case here is not about "artistic freedom", that sometimes demands to sacrifice realism or fact to make an art better. The inaccuracies occur here in places, where there aren't any necessity of them.

The rip-offs from the other movies were obvious as well. I don't know whether the authors really did intend to make "medieval magnificent seven" but if they did, they failed. Each character in Magnificent Seven is someone you deeply care. Someone you deeply know. Someone who you never forget. Each of them is unique.

Here: They are seven as well. They have one womanizer. They have on guy who throws knifes. They have one unexperienced youngster who asks for the trouble. They have one huge guy who chops wood when the group is approaching him... But that's it. That's where similarities end. Neither of these characters have any charisma.

Out of two main villains, one plays it's part really good, while other has not much to do except swinging the huge Axe.

Templar - the main protagonist of the movie, is played well as well... but again, his character is cliche as well and not as deep as writers could have imagined. (No fault of the actor here. He worked with what he had).

Plot is simple and somewhat unrealistic. 7 heroes, together with random 11 soldiers are guarding the castle from thousands of bad guys. (One English king and whining Danes who run at the first sight of blood among their ranks.

Bad guys need castle so badly because it's on the strategic spot on the English map and if King who regrets signing Magna Carta wants to rule autocratically once again, he must take it at all costs.

Here you will need all your suspend of disbelief to not raise the questions such as: why the rebels have sent only 7 men with questionable reputation to hold such an important spot...

Overall, like I said in the beginning of this review, the movie is watchable. If you're looking for some good action, blood and gore, you'll get what you paid for. If you're history buff though and easily offended about historical inaccuracies, you can avoid this one.

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