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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 08.02.11] movie review news action adventure

Year: 2011
Director: Jonathan English
Writer: Jonathan English, Erick Kastel, Stephen McDool
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 5 out of 10

When you've been waiting for a movie as long as we've been waiting for Ironclad, things are never going to end well. There's usually a feeling of heightened expectation for something great, especially when the trailers are as full of bloody awesomeness as these were. We should have known. The fact it only had a limited release regardless of the great cast should have been a warning sign for all of us. But Ironclad isn't just at the mercy of heightened expectation not being met – it's a seriously flawed film, something which is particularly baffling considering it follows the straight forward plotting of a siege.

Based on the historical siege of Rochester castle, Ironclad stars Paul Giamatti as King John. Forced to sign the Magna Carta, John hires a group of Danish mercenaries to take back the country, attacking every stronghold with a Baron that stood against him. Furious and determined to ensure the rights of the people, the Baron of Albany approaches the Church for support and they set a plan in motion: while the Bishop of Canterbury goes to the French for help, Albany and his men will hold John back at Rochester – the stronghold which stands and the crossroads to the rest of the country. With a ragtag group in tow, including a Knight's Templar (James Purefoy) who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - how convenient – they set off to Rochester.

So far so good right? Wrong. We're now halfway through the movie and we've had one action sequence (major or otherwise). Upon arriving at Rochester, the men have a night of food and drink - and in the case of Purefoy’s Marshal, debauchery - before the King arrives with his Danes and sets a pig fire under the castle bringing down a chunk of the tower. The Danes race in, there's a little squabbling, Marshal rises from the dead to save the day. The end. I kid you not, it's like half of the script was lost on the battle field. Admittedly, Ironclad doesn't feel overly long, a problem when movies aren't hitting their mark, but it lacks plot. There's no political intrigue, little drama and though it does stick to the action, even that seems inadequate. There's little urgency in any of the fight sequences and for a while, I even forgot what on earth they were fighting about. There's no feeling like the battle is being fought hand and nail and when John retreats as the French arrive, there's no feeling of relief only a "it's over already?"

Paul Giamatti tries to bring something to the table. He and Brian Cox as Albany seem to be in a different movie all-together, delivering some excellent, emotionally charged lines but everyone else, Purefoy included, seem happy to be shuffled along from one scene to the next with little in the way of acting. Director Jonathan English gives it a valiant effort, attempting to bring something new to the table by incorporating the handheld camera aesthetic to the fight sequences but it's mostly a distracting mess and though it's bloody as all hell, it's a frantic, hard to follow disaster.

It's too bad Ironclad is such a disappointment because visually, the film is rather striking with its scenes of the beautiful countryside and the dirty, gore filled fight sequences. What's most impressive is that despite the film's attempt to crush any hint of acting, Giamatti still manages to deliver a memorably ungrateful ass of a king. Hopefully he'll have the chance to do so in a better movie.

Ironclad has been available on DVD and Blu-ray in the US since last week but is making its Canadian debut today.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary with the director is the only extra on the disc. I wish I could say it's great but I was so bored by the movie, the thought of watching it again put me to sleep.

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Gary (9 years ago) Reply

Given some of the reviews I have read on here, with some real trash having been given high rating reviews-I find this review rather harsh. 6.5 out of 10.


Marina (9 years ago) Reply

I was *so* bored.

There's also no note on the passage of time. How can a siege only last one day? It didn't but it feels that way from watching the movie. Albany and his guys appear one day and it seems like the next John arrives and the day after that the French. I'm ok with overlooking historical accuracy but how can you even call it a siege if it only lasts 3 days? That's not long enough to run out of food!

Way too many problems and lack of direction. DUD.


Baba Louie (9 years ago) Reply

"...John hires a group of Danish missionaries..."

Well no wonder it was boring. Missionaries! Should have hired some mercenaries instead.


Karmah (9 years ago) Reply

I saw the film on the advice of a friend. Although I liked the idea I found the chain of events unbelievable and purely made for kicks.

There is a scene with a horse that really makes no sense at all. The scene people will start talking about with the catapult serves (in my opinion) no purpose at all.

I was really looking forward to this, but I found it to be really lacklustre and quite boring.

But having said that, it will sell a lot of DVD / BD's due to artwork and subject matter. So expect Ironclad II - The Return


Marina (9 years ago) Reply

Good catch Baba. Fixed.

And it was still boring.


Spartan (9 years ago) Reply

Speak for yourself..
The use of that big sword he has is an art long forgotten..exept by the weapon master who tought Purefoy. People are spoiled these days and like to break things down, because it's easy to do so..try to say something possitive for a change guys..There was put a LOT of detail in the cloths and weapons, it's not Sheakspeare but i loved it !


agentorange (9 years ago) Reply

I've been readig mixed things about this since release, but I love this kind of thing so I'm going to check it out.


trogen (9 years ago) Reply

I enjoyed it quite a lot actually!!


Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

agree most posts on a forum or bored are to negative being nit picky right away.

I haven't see the film though.


Chip (9 years ago) Reply

First time poster here but read this review and could not resist. Saw the film last night and kept waiting for the boredom to set in. Never happened. Found it to be an excellent film. Now, if the reviewer felt it to be deathly dull, so be it. I guess a lot of people feel that way about any movie. But at least get the facts of the movie straight. Firstly, as the Knights Templar were a holy order of monks sanctioned by the church what was so unbelievable about Marshal traveling with a priest at the beginning of the movie? I suppose it was laughably "convenient" that Tom Hank's Captain Miller was assigned the job of finding Private Ryan rather than having it go to one of those other guys standing around in the background? And "how convenient" was it that the Man and The Boy managed to survive the end of the world long enough to appear in THE ROAD rather than their next door neighbors? Every movie starts with the characters in place to begin the story and that line read like a cheap shot for the sake of a cheap shot. Next was the incorrect representation of Marshal at Rochester. Marshal was a monk with the expected vows of celibacy and sobriety which he took quite seriously in the film. He did not drink, was never drunk. Throughout the middle section there were scenes of the woman testing his interest and getting no response. The entire arc of the Marshal character was him learning to move past the strict training and vows of the Templar order that had defined his life up till then and which, along with his experiences in fighting the Crusades, accounted for his quiet and stoic personality. It was well into the siege and the second half of the movie before he opened up to the woman's advances and it left him confused and ashamed at having violated his vow to God. Whether you count this as solid drama or sheer boredom is up to you but to describe it in a way that implies Marshall came charging through the gate, grabbed a tankard of ale and jumped on the first big-boobed wench he could find is unfair to the movie. Also, as to the passage of time, after the first couple of attacks on the castle there was a narrated sequence indicating that considerable time was passing. No, it did not get specific about the number of days or weeks but made it perfectly clear that enough time had lapsed that their store of food had run out and they were reduced to eating the horses. (And which explained why Marshal's horse was not on the menu.) As to the ending, yes it got a little hokey there when Marshal regained consciousness and returned to the fight at the last possible second but that's what the hero does in action movies. Hardly a flaw unique to IRONCLAD. And Marshal did not save the day. The arrival of the French army did that. King John retreating in the face of a superior force entering the field was perfectly believable. Especially since Giamatti had done so much to portray him as far to petty and venal to make some heroic last stand and go out in a futile blaze of glory. Maybe I'm being nit-picky here but distorting the events in a film in an effort to make it look bad does not make for much of a review. Like a film or not, it doesn't matter to me, I can read and appreciate your reasoning either way. But get the basic synopsis right.
Bottom line, IRONCLAD is not perfect. Assembling the crew of colorful bad ass super soldiers to fight the good fight against impossible odds is more Kurosawa than history text and there are plenty of excessive action movie heroics on hand but the movie is certainly not the illogical slap-dash train wreck I was expecting from the review. I liked it.


Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

Heroics impossible Odds? There was a Japanese Samurai that faced over 200 men and defended one lone bridge so his master could perform the ritual of death.

and that is a true story. When Finally the samurai was so full of arrows that in death his body stayed stiff and in an upright position. He fought over 100 guys.

there lot's of things like that in in history that are true stories.
Where do you think Kurosawa got his subject matter?


Chip (9 years ago) Reply

Anonymous, I think you're missing my point which is understandable considering the great wall o' text it was hiding behind. It doesn't matter if IRONCLAD is historically accurate or even possibly or partially historically accurate or just vaguely plausible if you drink a lot and squint with your left eye. I posted because I read a very negative review and then saw the film in question only to discover that much of the negativity in the review was supported by inaccurate reporting of what was actually on the screen in the movie. It was slammed for omitting things that were actually there and for including things that were not there. I can certainly see how someone might be bored with IRONCLAD but the review itself just unleashed one of my pet peeves. If you're writing a review and what is there on the screen bores you to tears then convey that opinion as often and as strongly as you'd like. Just don't change what was there on screen to support your argument.

As for my Kurosawa reference, I'm sure he got his ideas from the same places every other story teller gets their ideas. History, myth, folklore, dreams,a story on page 3 of last Tuesday's paper, wherever he saw something that inspired him. But you cannot deny that by now the whole assembling-a-ragtag-team-of-colorful-characters-to-undertake-some-desperate-mission scenario has been done in so many films and so many different settings that it holds a hallowed spot in the cinematic cliche hall of fame. Sometimes it works as a natural way to introduce the characters and sometimes it just feels like a lazy way to pad the film's running time, but the process became standard operating procedure in action and sports-underdog movies a long time ago. In IRONCLAD I thought it was short and entertaining enough but I saw it as being far more of a cinematic trope to assemble the cast and make the characters recognizable rather than any sort of historically accurate depiction of the way armies were recruited in the Middle Ages.

And with my second monolithic block of text completed, I will now retire from my brief career as an internet ranter and cease inflicting my overly verbose prattle on those unsuspecting souls who might stumble across it.

Oh, and I hope this doesn't sound like an attack on Marina Antunes. I don't mean it as such. I have read your reviews before and will continue to do so whether I agree with them or not. This one just set me off. And not just because you had the audacity, the sheer bloody audacity!!! to dislike a movie that I found to be quite good. Really, it's not. I try not to be quite that petty.


Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

wow this film is good no yankee shit


Ulfrik Lionmane (5 years ago) Reply

1. This Movie is boring.. the fights often don't make sense, but what bothers me most is the depiction of the danish mercenaries... this movie is set in the 13th century? These Danes in Ironclad are dressed like the typical "Viking".. firstly, they don't look like the real historic vikings, and secondly, DANES IN THE 13th CENTURY WERE NOT VIKINGS ANYMORE! the viking era lasted to 1066, and the danes where christians since 870!! the danes in the 13th century looked excactly like all the other countries! You would not be able to tell danish, english and french soldiers apart! And all this talk between john and the dane, "if you fight and win for me, the chirch won't go to your lands".. 300 years of christian danes!! and the axe of the "captain".. it would not work in any way!! just terrible..

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