×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Ironclad: Battle for Blood’

2011's moderately successful medieval slay-'em-up 'Ironclad' gets a visibly cheaper, fun-free sequel.

With:
Tom Austen, Tom Rhys Harries, Roxanne McKee, Michelle Fairley, David Rintoul, Danny Webb, Rosie Day, David Caves, Andy Beckwith, Twinnie-Lee Moore, Predrag Bjelac.

Only the fake-blood expenditure has been upped in “Ironclad: Battle for Blood,” an anemic sequel to 2011’s medieval slay-’em-up “Ironclad” that visibly scrimps in all other departments, from casting to effects to any semblance of humor. Essentially repeating its predecessor’s castle-siege narrative — minus the vague historical basis this time — writer-director Jonathan English’s dank-looking film delivers enough amputations, decapitations and other instances of rusty-bladed gore to distract undiscerning genre fans stuck between seasons of “Game of Thrones,” but serves no other obvious purpose. Granted a far smaller U.K. release than the first film back in March, the film now enters theaters Stateside after an initial VOD bow; if there’s any further life (or flamboyant death) in this franchise, it’ll be in ancillary only.

Unlike “Ironclad,” which notionally told the story of the 1215 siege of Rochester Castle, the sword-and-sackcloth drama in “Battle for Blood” (set six years later) is entirely fictional — which would contribute to a general sense of lowered narrative stakes even if the storytelling weren’t so desultory. Gone, too, are any characters of equivalent consequence to King John, played with lunatic relish by Paul Giamatti in the first film, or actors of equivalent presence to play them. The biggest star in the sequel’s ensemble, arguably, is “Thrones” alum Michelle Fairley, given little to do as the simpering wife of ailing English nobleman Gilbert de Vesci (David Rintoul), who finds his castle in Scotland under attack by local Celts.

It’s a situation ripe for brash, “Braveheart”-style political rhetoric, which would be oddly pertinent in 2014, with the Scottish independence referendum looming, but the script, by English and Steve McDool, pays no mind to the bigger picture, with the bloodlust mostly motivated by soapy personal grievances. The Scots’ leader, Maddog (Predrag Bjelac), seeks revenge for the death of his son; from his deathbed, Gilbert responds to the threat by sending his own baby-faced boy, Hubert (Tom Rhys Harries, giving the film’s most appealing performance), into the breach, instructing him to track down his cousin, hardened mercenary Guy de Lusignan (Tom Austen), to help hold down the fort.

Guy is the one returning character from the first film, though you’d be forgiven for not realizing: The sculptedly handsome Austen cuts a very different figure from Aneurin Barnard, the role’s previous inhabitant. Once he enters the scene, backed by a trio of murderous renegades, the film falls into a repetitive routine of consistently brutal showdowns. They’re so alike in tone and staging that the eventual faceoff with Maddog hardly feels climactic, while the domestic squabbles within the castle — among them a wan romance between Guy and another of his cousins, Kate (Roxanne McKee) — add little interest.

Further underlining the sense of familiarity, English (whose surname, incidentally, matches the script’s questionably justified allegiance in this conflict) rehashes most of his technical devices from the first film. The most prominent and least effective of these is the dropped frame rate intended to lend in-the-fray urgency to Zoran Popovic’s solemnly washed-out lensing, though it’s an affectation that frequently combines with the cut-price CGI to detract from the film’s verisimilitude. Production and costume design on the Serbian-shot production are economically restrained; Andreas Weidinger’s kitschily choral score is anything but.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Ironclad: Battle for Blood'

Reviewed online, July 19, 2014. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: (U.K.-Serbia) An XLrator Media (in U.S.)/Warner Bros. (in U.K.) release of a Content Media Corp., Matador Pictures presentation of a Mythic Intl. Entertainment production in association with Red Production. Produced by Rick Benattar, Andrew Curtis, Jonathan English. Executive producers, Jamie Carmichael, Nigel Thomas, Milos Dukelic, Maria Dukelic. Co-executive producer, Al Munteanu.

Crew: Directed by Jonathan English. Screenplay, English, Steve McDool. Camera (color, Arri widescreen), Zoran Popovic; editor, Laurens Van Charante; music, Andreas Weidinger; production designer, Jelena Sopic; art director, Jovana Cvetkovic; set decorator, Mina Buric; costume designer, Tatjana Strugar; sound, Zoran Maksimovic; supervising sound editor, James Lay; re-recording mixers, Lay, Sam Kaufmann; visual effects supervisor, Bogdan Marjanovic; visual effects, Dreamdust VFX Services; stunt coordinator, Slavisa Ivanovic; line producer, Marko Jocic; assistant directpr, Predrag Mijin; casting, Kelly Valentine Hendry, Victor Jenkins.

With: Tom Austen, Tom Rhys Harries, Roxanne McKee, Michelle Fairley, David Rintoul, Danny Webb, Rosie Day, David Caves, Andy Beckwith, Twinnie-Lee Moore, Predrag Bjelac.

More Film

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

  • Kristen Stewart

    French Director Olivier Assayas Pays Tribute to Kristen Stewart at Deauville

    French director Olivier Assayas paid tribute to Kristen Stewart, whom he directed in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper,” at the Deauville American Film Festival on Friday evening. Stewart received a honorary award in Deauville before the French premiere of Benedict Andrews’s “Seberg” in which the actress stars as Jean Seberg, a French New [...]

  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was

    Film Review: 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was'

    Liam Gallagher is nearly as fascinating a rock ‘n’ roll figure as he thinks he is … which is saying a lot. After the breakup of Oasis, one of the most self-avowedly arrogant stars in pop culture found himself severely humbled, fighting to become relevant again without the help of Noel, his ex-bandmate and, for [...]

  • The Vast of Night

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Vast of Night'

    It’s the first high school basketball game of the season and all of Cayuga, N.M., population 492, is cheering on the Statesmen at the gym. Except for the town’s two brightest kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), who are strolling through the empty darkness to their respective jobs as a radio DJ and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content