A broad sword in­deed

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

THERE JUST aren’t enough films these days fea­tur­ing medieval war­riors cov­ered in cow dung. If this writer had his way, no week would pass with­out some warty peas­ant hav­ing his arm sev­ered by a rusty broadsword.

So there are rea­sons to wel­come Iron­clad. A rough blend of Zulu and the Black Knight se­quence from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this eco­nom­i­cally bud­geted Bri­tish film is not short on medieval gore. Barely a mo­ment goes by with­out some un­for­tu­nate war­rior get­ting an un­wel­come glance at sec­tions of his in­nards. Sadly, Iron­clad is also more than a lit­tle over­stretched and un­der­writ­ten. One can’t hon­estly muster any sur­prise at the news that, shot back in 2009, it has been ly­ing on the shelf for a spell.

Mix­ing up its gen­res to dizzy­ing ef­fect, Iron­clad be­gins with Brian Cox, one of the earls who forced King John (Paul Gia­matti) to sign Magna Carta, tour­ing broth­els and dun­geons to as­sem­ble a crack team of op­er­a­tives. One is a safe cracker. An­other is the dy­na­mite man. A third knows how to by­pass bur­glar alarms. We’re mak­ing that up, but the open­ing does re­call that of a “bunch-of-guys” heist movie.

Lord Cox’s real aim is to se­cure Rochester Cas­tle from the at­ten­tions of King John’s re­group­ing counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces. If they can hold off un­til the French ar­rive, then the in­no­va­tions in Magna Carta should be se­cure. (Yes, you read that right. This is a Bri­tish film in which in­vad­ing French­men are the good guys.)

Un­for­tu­nately, the even­tual de­fend­ing force com­prises only a lit­tle over 20 men. While King John musters his thou­sands and tight­ens the bolts on his cat­a­pults, the crack force grimly con­tem­plates its un­likely mis­sion. You can see what we’re up to with the Zulu com­par­isons.

The per­for­mances are all up to scratch. The end­lessly re­li­able Gia­matti makes a weedy spoilt child of King John. James Pure­foy, Macken­zie Crook and Ja­son Fle­myng con­firm that geezer­cul­ture flour­ished cen­turies be­fore Guy Ritchie first drew breath. But, af­ter es­tab­lish­ing its core sce­nario, the pic­ture fast be­comes a gru­elling com­pi­la­tion of repet­i­tive for­ays.

If it makes more than five bent florins at the box-of­fice I’ll eat my own scab­bard.


Knight fever: James Pure­foy & weapon Di­rected by Jonathan English. Star­ring James Pure­foy, Paul Gia­matti, Kate Mara, Brian Cox, Macken­zie Crook, Ja­son Fle­myng, Derek Ja­cobi,

Charles Dance

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