Dropout UK @ Ironclad, Private Press Screening @ Warner Bros
13th Century England Portrayed In Fine British Fashion
Jonathan English’s directorial follow-up to 2006’s fantasy horror film, ‘Minotaur’ and his third feature film as a director - ‘Ironclad’ is a gritty, brutal and gory portrayal of 13th Century medieval England and tells the story of a Templar Knight (played by James Purefoy) along with a few rebel warriors as they defend the Rochester castle from the infamous King John (played by Paul Giamatti) to prevent him from seizing control of the whole of England in 1215 in what is a truly entertaining and enjoyable action-packed lesson in English history, albeit lacking in any intrigue or complexity.
Shot in its entirety in Wales in 2009, Ironclad is a huge feat and step in the right direction for British independent films, it certainly does raise the bar for non-studio filmmaking as the ambition and scope of this film is well beyond its supposed $25million budget and while Ironclad’s script (co-written by English as well as Erick Kastel and Stephen McDool) leaves much to be desired as it lacks any wit or ‘edge’ and is neither compelling nor gripping for the most part, the film is packed with some superb action sequences and well-choreographed fight scenes that will leave you entertained for most of the Ironclad’s 121 minutes.
Within this indie non-fiction action film, the supporting story of the burgeoning romance between Templar Knight, Marshall (played by James Purefoy who is best known for his role as Mark Anthony in HBO’s award-winning TV series, Rome) and the lady of the Rochester castle, Lady Isabel (played by Kate Mara notable for her roles on Fox’s TV series, 24 and Academy Award-winning film, Brokeback Mountain) reeks of a certain ineptness, is often times implausible and quite frankly comes across as forged. The two actors clearly do not lack chemistry together as is witnessed in quite a few of their dialogues and even though Mara’s performance (as Lady Isabel) is bold, ballsy and on point, Purefoy’s stiff and uncomfortable depiction of the Templar Knight in the scenes he shares with her - a stiffness and awkwardness which seems to be by design – is largely to blame for the unoriginality of this particular storyline.
The love story does serve some kind of purpose thankfully as it is a much needed reprieve from all the violence that comes with this film and even though the storyline here leaves something to be desired, it does certainly add to the overall feel of the film rather than detract from it which is always a good thing. Mara does stand out in her role as Lady Isabel in both the love story and in the general context of the entire film with a commanding presence, compelling, sharp and witty delivery that shine through in all the scenes that centre on her character, Lady Isabel.
Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner, Paul Giamatti is in superb form from the start to finish as the villainous power-hungry King John with the exact kind of excellent delivery and presence that we have come to expect from the veteran actor. It is no wonder that the film’s co-producer Rick Benattar attests to casting the entire movie around Giamatti, he simply owns his scenes. Ironclad also boasts great outings from Jason Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, X-Men: First Class) who plays slutty “hard man” mercenary, Beckett who will not fight for God nor for country but for money and savagery and young Welsh actor, Aneurin Barnard whose portrayal of a young squire named Guy marks a perfect transition for the 23-year old from theatre to the big screen as he literally lights up the screen on more than a couple of occasions and shows just why he won a Laurence Olivier Award in 2010 (for his role in Spring Awakening) and is being earmarked as one of the few fast-rising British actors to look out for.
When the press release said “there will be blood”, it was not lying. There was blood everywhere and spewing from every nook and cranny as well and with the fighting seemingly never ending from start to finish, Jonathan English’s commitment to “creating the most brutal action carnage yet seen in the genre” might as well have been accomplished. That is exactly what Ironclad is – a brutal action film that will make for horrific viewing to some but will make for a largely enjoyable one to most and that actually means that English and his cohorts succeed in shocking their audience, recreating the viciousness of 13th century Medieval England and making a good ol’ action film.
If your yet to, check out the trailer below
Ironclad will be released nationwide 4th March 2011.