Wednesday 18 January 2012


Breaking his sworn vow of silence after witnessing the torture of a monk, Knight Marshal (James Purefoy) unwittingly takes on the might of King John and his army as he protects an embattled castle. Watch the trailer and read my review, next...

Against the law of the land he rules, King John (Paul Giamatti) decides to break the recently signed Magna Carta treaty and take back the land he considers to be rightfully his. Fearing an all out war is brewing, Ironclad (as I'm choosing to call him) and a small band of trusty recruits head to a castle to protect its borders from King John's approaching army. Enraged by their insolence, King John leads his troops to seize back the castle.

If you're the kind of person who likes to spend their weekends taking part in historical re-renactments, you'll probably find a lot to enjoy about this film's mix of swinging swords and gruff machismo. If however, you're the kind of person who likes to stay in at the weekend and watch good action films, then this isn't for you. I'll admit that there's some pleasure to be taken from seeing a bad guy get his head cleaved in, but there's no real story to hang its moments of bloodthirsty joy from. Whilst the battle scenes may carry some merit, the long talky scenes of pompous English land barons soon start to grate.

Ironclad is directed by Jonathan English, a man you really have to feel a bit sorry for. His life must have been absolutely ruined when a certain Rowan Atkinson starring spy caper was released, but fair play to him for soldiering on regardless. What he's made is an odd looking film, the crisp digital video look at odds with the film's tone and 13th century setting. Michael Mann only just got away with it when he made the depression era set Public Enemies, and Jonathan English is no Michael Mann.

Ironclad takes great pleasure in showing King John's barbaric nature in grisly, gruesome detail, including one poor chap who has his hands and feet chopped off and is then unceremoniously flung against a castle wall with a dirty great catapult. It's during these scense that Paul Giamatti has the most fun as King John. He chews up and spits out every line of dialogue he has, at his best when he's verbally sparring with the equally booming Brian Cox. I'm assuming that Giamatti chose to ignore historic record and just play John for the delicious bastard he could be, but it's just a shame that he isn't allowed more screen time, especially against Cox.

The plot is easily forgettable (he sets off on his quest to go somewhere and do something, etc) and a lot of the cast aren't given the opportunity to shine. Included in Marshal's band of merry men are Mackenzie Crook and Jason Flemyng, two actors who are forever destined to play these types of supporting roles. They're stuck on the periphery whilst too long is spent with Marshal and his forbidden love interest (Kate Mara). It's a dull subplot with a fairly obvious conclusion.

The DVD cover proudly states that it's from the same studio as Zack Snyder's 300, but as you may have surmised from my description of the film, apart from having the same financial backing, there's zero comparison between the two. The film it most has in common with is Nicolas Cage's Season of The Witch, but unfortunately neither film comes off well with that comparison.

Put aside the dull and barely registering performance of leading man James Purefoy and focus on the supporting cast, and there's some gems to be found amongst the mud. Notorious scene stealers Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox deliver two shouty, ulcer-inflaming performances that make this low quality film more watchable than it has any right to be.


1 comment:

  1. Agree with your verdict, Col - a bit tiresome, a bit wearying.