REVIEW by Joe Pesci II below

Release Date: 4th March 2011

Director: Jonathan English (Ironclad 2)

Cast: James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Kate Mara, Derek Jacobi, Aneurin Barnard, Mackenzie Crook, Jamie Foreman, Rhys Parry Jones  with Jason Flemyng and Charles Dance

Writer: Erick Kastel & Jonathan English



  • James Purefoy: High-Rise, Momentum, Episodes (TV), John Carter, Solomon Kane, Resident Evil, Maybe Baby, A Knight’s Tale,  The Wedding Tackle, Mansfield Park (1999), Lighthouse,Bedrooms & Hallways
  • Paul Giamatti: Straight Outta Compton, Madame Bovary, San Andreas, The Congress, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Saving Mr Banks, Romeo & Juliet (2013), The Ides of March, Cosmopolis, Rock of Ages, The Hangover 2, Win Win, Duplicity, Shoot ‘Em Up, Lady InThe Water, The Illusionist (2006), Cinderella Man, Sideways, Paycheck, American Splendor, Thunderpants, Big Fat Liar, Planet of The Apes (2001), Storytelling, Duets, Big Momma’s House, The Cradle Will Rock, The Negotiator, Saving Privater Ryan,  The Truman Show
  • Brian Cox: The Anomaly, Believe, Her (voice), Red 2, Blood (2013), The Campaign, Coriolanus, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Veteran,Red, Fantastic Mr Fox (voice), The Escapist, The Water Horse, Zodiac, Red Eye, Match Point, The Bourne Supremacy, Troy, X Men 2, 25th Hour, Adaptation, The Ring, The Bourne Identity, Super Troopers, For The Love Of The Money, The Corruptor, Rushmore, Desperate Measures, The Boxer, Kiss The Girls, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Glimmer Man, Chain Reaction, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Iron Will, Hidden Agenda, Manhunter
  • Kate Mara: The Fantastic Four (2015), Deadfall, 127 Hours, Shooter, Brokeback Mountain
  • Derek Jacobi: Cinderella (2015), Effie Gray, Grace of Monaco, Vicious (TV), Last Tango In Halifax (TV), My Week With Marilyn, Anonymous, The King’s SpeechMorris – A Life With Bells On, The Riddle, The Golden Compass, Underworld 3, Nanny McPhee, Gosford Park, Gladiator (2000),  Love Is The Devil, Hamlet (1996), Dead Again, Henry V (1989), Little Dorrit, The Odessa Files, The Day Of The Jackal
  • Aneurin Barnard: War & Peace (TV), Harvest (2015), Cilla (TV), The Adventurer – The Midas Box, Citadel, The Facility, Trap For Cinderella, Elfie Hopkins, We’ll Take ManhattanHunky Dory
  • Mackenzie Crook: In Secret, Muppets Most Wanted, One Chance, Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, Game of Thrones (TV), Tintin (voice), Sex & Drugs & Rock-N-Roll, Solomon Kane, Three and Out, City of Ember, Pirates Of The Caribbean 3, I Want Candy, Pirates Of The Caribbean 2,  The Brothers Grimm, Churchill – The Hollywood Years, Finding Neverland, The Merchant Of Venice (2004), Sex Lives Of The Potato Men, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Office (TV)
  • Jamie Foreman: The Bromley Boys, A Hundred Streets, Dead End (2013), Eastenders (TV), St George’s DayThe GrindScrewed (2011), BaselineBotched, Oliver Twist (2005), Layer Cake, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, The Football Factory, Goodbye Charlie Bright, Gangster No.1, Elizabeth I, This Year’s Love, Nil By Mouth
    Rhys Parry Jones: Patagonia
  • Jason Flemyng: Gemma Bovery, Top Dog,  Sunshine On LeithWelcome To The PunchI Give It a YearThe Great Expectations (2012)Wild Bill (2012), X Men-First Class, Hanna, Solomon Kane, Kick Ass, IroncladDead Cert, Jack FallsThe Riddle,  Shifty, Clash Of The Titans, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Mirrors, Stardust, Rollin With The Nines, Transporter 2, Layer Cake, Below, Mean Machine, The Bunker, Snatch, Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,The Red Violin, The Hollow Reed, Deep Rising, Spice World, Alive & Kicking (1996), Deep Rising, Stealing Beauty, The Jungle Book (1994)
  • Charles Dance: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Woman In Gold, Child 44, The Imitation Game, Dracula Untold, Game Of Thrones (TV), Midnight’s Children,  St. George’s Day, Underworld 4, Your Highness, Starter For Ten, Gosford Park, Ladies In Lavender (dir), Swimming Pool, Ali G In Da House,  Black and White (2002), Hilary & Jackie, Michael Collins, Space Truckers, Exquisite Tenderness, China Moon, Century, The Last Action Hero, Alien 3, Hidden City, The Golden Child, White Mischief, James Bond – For Your Eyes Only

One thought on “IRONCLAD

  1. Review by Joe Pesci II


    I knew very little about the history of 13th century Britain. Having watched IRONCLAD, I now know even less. (As for the title, I can only assume they gave the ‘thinking up a title’ job to the same work experience kid who was meant to do the historical research.) Life was hard and very violent, and the king was a tyrant, and only the humble barons were willing to stand up for the common folk, and there was a rebellion against King John, and it was led by the Knights Templar (except it wasn’t) and the film looks at a heroic moment when a few dozen rebels pluckily attempted to repel John’s massive army (except the film may have exaggerated about that bit. And lied as well).

    No matter, what we have here is a good old-fashioned battle involving lots of ye olden daye knights who are all in a bit of a palaver over some document or other. According to the film the document in question is Magna Carter which gave rights to free men or some such nonsense. (In real life it was more about the barons of Britain limiting the power of the king, but historical accuracy isn’t the film’s strong point). So what is the film’s strong point? Men hitting each other with blunt and sharp objects mainly (and at least one person gets bashed over the head by his own severed arm) (I don’t know if that was widespread 13th century battle practice, but I guess that doesn’t matter either). So, evil King John (Paul Giamatti – surely the first time a Yank has played an evil British king?) is unhappy that he’s had to sign the thing and he’s come up with a novel way of negating it: kill everyone else who signed it. Which means mostly Brian Cox, who enjoys himself for once as a baron on the side of the people (again not quite what happened but never mind). Cox leads the obligatory rag-tag of rebels, including Knight Templar James Purefoy (again, the Guardian says the Knights Templar actually supported King John but never mind). Anyway, there are a couple of dozen rebels, an egalitarian fraternity of barons, criminals, knights and ordinary men who band together to (a) hijack, and (b) defend a strategically important keep in Rochester.

    It’s all a bit The Magnificent Seven in medieval England (or Battle Beyond the Stars in medieval England, or The Seven Samurai in medieval England). But with more than seven knights, that would be silly. So, with about fifteen knights, thugs, servants, nutters, criminals and comely wenches, our heroes are able to see off the evil King John and his horde of over a thousand snarling Danish barbarians for months. Yes, I thought that was a bit unlikely, but historical accuracy isn’t that important remember.

    Anyway, the rebels find themselves under siege, and they’re soon having to eat the horses. Fortunately, there seems to be an endless supply of make-up for Kate Mara as the lady of the keep, unhappily married to cowardly keep-keeper Derek Jacobi. And Knight Templar James Purefoy is on hand as the worst Knight Templar you ever did see. Having taken vows of chastity and silence, he sort of forgets about the latter after his boss has his tongue cut out by evil King John, and forgets about the former the moment he sees a lady.

    So as romance slowly blossoms between the (you would assume) doomed lovers, evil King John is not idle. No! He has his fearless Danish army (that must be historically accurate) and they mean business. Quite slow business though as they only seem to attack every few weeks. But attack they do, usually with some new weapon, like a siege tower or burning pigs (yes), and the film’s structure feels like a Road Runner cartoon with King John in the place of Wile E Coyote and his Acme gadgets. Sadly there must have been some sort of mix-up, because Paul Giamatti seems to be impersonating the wrong Warner Brothers cartoon character. Giamatti is the living incarnation of Yosemite Sam. It’s a breathtaking way of approaching the role, great fun, and entirely in keeping with the lunatic nature of the film. Whether it is historically or emotionally accurate, I cannot say, but I hope to see this develop into a trend, and maybe we might see Michael Douglas play Prince Philip in the style of Elmer Fudd.

    Meanwhile back in merrie olde England, IRONCLAD gleefully splatters its audience with hacked torsos, limbs spewing left and right as volcanic squirts of blood froth about like confetti. The blood and death is all done quite entertainingly, though I did sometimes wish the cameraman would stand still a bit, or the editor would be a little less scissor-happy. But there are more pressing problems than a hyperactive crew. In front of the cameras we find acting which ranges from the touchingly, naively sincere (Aneurin Barnard as the young man being introduced to battle) to the flailing flamboyance of Jamie Foreman gurning at full pelt. Elsewhere, Purefoy and Mara have all the smouldering erotic chemistry of Noddy and Big Ears. The contingent of thespian elders (Cox, Jacobi, Charles Dance) treat their very poor lines (I think Brian Cox even says ‘Kiss my arse’) with varying degrees of indulgence. It’s nice to see Jason Flemyng last for more than two scenes.

    And there’s fun to be had in cliché counting. Not only does someone say ‘It’s too quiet’ immediately before a surprise attack, but it also has an elderly character who’s decided to retire at the end of his current mission, who then gets horribly killed. And there’s a dad who promises his small children that he’ll return then stares sadly off into the distance. IRONCLAD Is a lot more entertaining than CENTURION and SOLOMON KANE amongst bloke on horse movies. But BLACK DEATH is the best of this particular bunch so far. IRONCLAD is almost saved by the action sequences and some fun performances, but is ultimately sunk by its improbabilities, longeurs, and focus on the duller characters.

    It’s a goodies vs baddies romp, bursting with blood and body parts, and absolutely lacking in credibility and tension. Honestly, fast forward through all the talky bits: the dialogue is poor but not awful enough to raise many titters, and the characters have the depth of tracing paper, and that way you’re shortening the film by at least twenty minutes. Then you can concentrate on the delightfully demented scenes of carnage and death. It’s not that they’re outstandingly great either, but they are the best parts of the film, and you’ll save yourself having to put up with the tedious love affair between Purefoy and Mara, and you won’t overload your brain with ‘facts’ which turn out to be LIES. And you get to see one of the thespian elders suffer an imaginatively gruesome death involving both amputation and a catapult. (So what if that didn’t actually happen to the original historical character? It’s only a movie.)

    IRONCLAD is not a historical or psychological study. It’s a ‘let’s hurl Cox at some rocks and cut out someone’s tongue for fun’ kind of picture.

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