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ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Ironclad (2011)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Jonathan English

Starring:
James Purefoy/Thomas
Kate Mara/Isabel
Paul Giamatti/King John
Jason Flemyng/Gil
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
In 1215 loud mouth King John (Paul Giamatti) tries to reclaim a castle (the Rochester Castle for those who care) that's defended by a rag-tag group of mercenaries and one badass Templar Knight (James Purefoy). As the tagline says: Blood will flow!
THE LOWDOWN

I’ve been doing lots of research about The Templars now of late for an upcoming film project. Amidst reading books and watching documentaries, I’ve also tried to tap movies that had to do with the topic (not that many out there). So yes I took on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (the Director's Cut is sublime), will wrestle the Zombie Templar jamboree TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and now I just went to war with IRONCLAD (WATCH IT HERE). As I was soaking in this brutality charged medieval action fest, all I kept thinking was “I got to recommend this one to the gorefiends on Arrow in the Head”, hence here I am saying – see it! All right. Am done. Later! Just kidding. Let the rambling begin!

Let me start off my saying that if you’re a history buff and inaccuracies annoy the shite out of you; don’t bother with Ironclad. I know my history and this one was all over the map (for example, the Danes were converted to Christianity by the 12th century, in this flick, set in 1215, they are not, in the name of a plot device). But personally, I didn't wrangle a flick of this ilk to get a history lesson out of it, wasn’t its bag, so I got to esteem it for what it was: a fast paced, grisly and down & dirty good time! For all its hoopla, IRONCLAD was a simple tale at heart; dudes in castle, defending it from many more dudes outside the castle. That’s it. Sure they attempted to bring in some depth by way of the Templar’s guilt and his struggle with his oaths (with the lovely Kate Mara around, I’d also have a hard time keeping up with that chastity thing) but for the most part, it was all very surface and didn’t go deep enough for it to have much of an effect on me.

What it did bring to the table though was a stand out cast and buckets of blood. The presence of James Purefoy (at his brooding best), the great Brian Cox, Kate Mara (strong, naturally beautiful), Paul Giamatti (chewing that scenery fervently), Charles Dance (class baby, class) and Jason Flemyng (as yet another a-hole) definitely classed this sucka up! Grade A cast in a violent B Movie that goes for the jugular, I like that! Action wise; this one went all out! and with quite the mean streak to boot! I don’t cringe very often when it comes to violence on film at this stage, but seeing a Priest get his tongue cut out definitely had me wincing like Kanye West crying in his Corn Flakes. More on the goods IRONCLAD offered up below in the gore section! Tag to that an easy pace, some solid production values (dug that castle), a rousing score and mucho practical stunts/special effects that were beyond appreciated by this twat in this day and age of CGI and you get an unrepentant slaughter fest!

On the flip side, I had read that they were going for a Magnificent 7 vibe with this one, sadly, most of the “anti heroes” weren’t beefed up enough to fully stand out. I also would have dug a deeper exploration of Purefoy's plight (there was something promising there) – but that was not to be. But my biggest peeve was the way the action was shot. Way too much hand-held, close-shot, shaky cam stuff that lessened the impact of many of the action scenes cause I couldn't see jack-squat. Either they didn't know how to shoot action and covered it up in Post or it was a creative decision - either way, not my bag. But hey, that's just me, what do I know! Lastly, the last act didn’t measure up to the INSANE middle section, but no biggie, just needed to be spat.

On the whole; IRONCLAD resulted in two hours of cheap thrills and big spills! I can’t say I learned much about The Templars, but I got my rocks off, all that matters! If this one slipped through your fingers – rectify!

GORE
It gets ugly! We get a cut off tongue, countless impalings, stabbings, a sword in the mouth, arrow damage, hacked off arms, chopped off hands, heads bashed in, a dude cut in half, folks lit on fire, it’s a GORE party and you’re invited! The fact that lots of the effects were practical gave this one further punch!
T & A
A tit shot and the ladies and gay dudes get Jason Flemyng's butt.
BOTTOM LINE
IRONCLAD didn’t do much when it came to conveying accurate historical facts or fleshing out its characters beyond the obvious, but what it did do is stab my way stellar production values, a top notch cast while filling my retinas with non-stop action and buckets of red grub! Granted the shaky cam stuff when it came to the action was often frustrating but hey, I still managed to enjoy myself! The flick did well enough financially to warrant a sequel (Ironclad: Battle for Blood), and one look at the trailer let me know to skip the bleep out if it! Unless somebody tells me it's solid that is. Well is it? Shoot some comments below!
BULL'S EYE
The film was shot in Wales in 2009 for 25 million clams.

It too Paul Giamatti 7 days to film his role.

Thomas Marshal (James Purefoy) was based on real life medieval knight William Marshal.
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