'Ironclad': Paul Giamatti leads a fine cast into bloody battle
A movie review of "Ironclad" — "a gritty, pseudo-realistic, medieval action movie" starring Paul Giamatti as a vengeful king battling rebel land barons in 1215.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Ironclad,' with Paul Giamatti, James Purefoy, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, Derek Jacobi. Directed by Jonathan English, from a screenplay by English, Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool. 121 minutes. Rated R for graphic battle violence. Oak Tree.
"Ironclad" director Jonathan English set out to make "a gritty, pseudo-realistic, medieval action movie" and, for better or worse, that's exactly what he delivered. Despite its surface gloss of authenticity, "Ironclad" takes a "pseudo-realistic" approach to history while upping the ante on medieval carnage.
Tongues are cut out, limbs hacked off and skulls split open like overripe melons. The soundtrack pummels us with clanging blades, splitting bones and the gurgling of mud- spattered men choking on their own blood.
Through it all, Paul Giamatti spits bilious fury as a ruthless king with a mile-wide mean streak and an army of Danish mercenaries. What's not to like?
Independently produced on a resourceful budget of $20 million plus, "Ironclad" makes Ridley Scott's action epics look tame by comparison. That's not necessarily a compliment, but if I had to choose between the expensive dreariness of "Robin Hood" and the ultraviolent earnestness of "Ironclad," I would root for the low-budget underdog.
It's 1215, and King John (Giamatti) is royally cranky after being forced to sign the Magna Carta, empowering the land barons (like Albany, played by Brian Cox) who've conspired against him. The king reneges on the charter, and so begins a bloody war of rebellion — with a Templar knight named Thomas (James Purefoy) defending the barons at Rochester, the most strategically positioned castle in England.
Derek Jacobi lends class as the Abbott of Rochester, and Kate Mara ("127 Hours") jumps ridiculously into battle as Jacobi's daughter and Thomas' love interest, but "Ironclad" is basically an all-action bloodbath with an impressive cast.
To their credit, English and his co-writers reward that stellar cast with intelligent dialogue between battle scenes, and Purefoy's fine as a reluctant hero when he's not thrusting his anachronistic long-sword through the heads of his enemies.
Jeff Shannon: firstname.lastname@example.org
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