Ironclad

3 Aug

Title: Ironclad
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Jonathan English
Writers: Jonathan English and Erick Kastel, based on a first screenplay by Stephen McDool, based on a story by Mr. English
Starring: 
James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong graphic brutal battle sequences, and brief nudity
Runtime: 
121 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 
44%

 

It’s not so much that I didn’t like Ironclad, as it is that I think it just left it’s potential totally unrealized. And by potential I really mean Paul Giamatti, one of the better actors working today, who has already given one of the finer performances of the year in the terrific Win Win, and who here stars as King John, as the film follows, though taking its fair share of historic liberties, the events after he signed the Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago. Those events are pretty much seeing the monarch wage a furious battle against the rebel barons who forced his hand to sign that document, enlisting an army of Danish mercenaries to go against the barons who are being advised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and aided by a Knight Templar.

And like I said, this isn’t a horrible movie, but it just totally squandered its potential in my opinion. Not only is the awesome Mr. Giamatti gone to waste here, but the rest of the ensemble, led by a likable James Purefoy, is just as dependable, and includes the likes of Brian Cox, Kate Mara and Derek Jacobi. I just didn’t get what they were trying to do with their approach to this one, as director Jonathan English instead of doing his all to craft a feature film that had an epic feel and look to it instead made a two-hour version of what should have been an eight hour miniseries, by which I mean that the stuff that happens feels like a badly edited summarized version of a larger piece, with a story that just felt terribly compressed. And that’s when talking about the story, but Ironclad is also very much, perhaps too much, about the action in it, all bloody and crazy, but not in a way that feels awesome, but rather in a way that feels like one of those extended trailers for videogames about this sort of time periods, the battle sequences all felt painfully cluttered and you got the gist that Mr. English just wanted to show how everyone got chopped up and died, I mean, seriously, the amount of killshots in this film is just unbelievable.

Not to say that it’s all bad in Ironclad, because it really isn’t, it’s just that I was disappointed with it because I thought it would be a B-grade film and I really can’t give it a grade that means I recommend it. But for all the things that didn’t work for me here there were a couple of nice things going on, and the action sequences as gratuitously gory and videogame-y as they many times may have seemed were still really well done, and the catapults and the whole castle stuff all worked for me. The thing is that for you to really enjoy all those devices this film employs you have to be able to invest yourself a bit in the actual plot, and even though there is a plot here, no matter the historic liberties it at times takes, the script is so blunt that the narrative counts with basically no real character development, no matter how enjoyable many of Mr. Cox’s scenes may be, so that leaves Ironclad in a sticky situation that it mostly fails to figure out what to do with.

And you know what would have helped Ironclad a lot? If it had been willing to make fun of itself a little bit. I don’t mean that just because the whole setting reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but also because a more tongue-in-cheek approach would have made it more likely for this film to get away with the fact that there are scenes like the one in which one guy beats up to death another guy using the severed arm of another guy. That stuff wasn’t played for laughs, and yet it was so worthy of them, as were a lot of the other gory stunts seen here, not to mention the fact that the characters in this film did a lot of over-the-top eyerolling and huffing and puffing.

I’m going to recommend skipping Ironclad. Again, I didn’t like this film because I thought a film set on the thirteenth century with more than a bit of battle sequences starring Mr. Giamatti and Mr. Cox was going to be far better. However, I guess that over time this may get a small cult following because of how ridiculous and bloody the battle sequences are. And, by the way, Mr. Giamatti and Mr. Cox are let go to waste in the sense that their characters were horribly written, not in the sense that they weren’t game for this, because, quite the opposite, I got the sense these two great thesps were having a ball with the opportunity of getting to put on chainmill vests and utter all of these terribly cheesy one-liners, and if they had gotten more scenes together then I’m sure I would’ve liked this film far more if only because it would have been funner to watch. But all in all, this is a film that, yes, had some nicely done bloody and creative death scenes and they were cool to watch, but they would have been just as good as a gory viral YouTube video, because story and character-wise there’s really nothing to be seen here.

Grade: C+

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