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Ironclad - blu-ray review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

ironclad - movie


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3 Stars

There seems to be a resurgence of stylized medieval actioners of late.  From Black Death to Centurion, these mostly independent features are side-stepping traditional Hollywood paths and pursuing a limited release in theatres, then settling into the Home Theatre market for one last battle.  Ironclad, directed by Jonathan English and starring Paul Giamatti, is no different.  Beginning at the precise moment Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood ends, Ironclad is probably the best illustration of just how far absolute power corrupts absolutely and to what end the public has to go in order to protect themselves from it.

King John (Giamatti) is a liar.  He has appealed to the public and signed the Magna Carta only to turn around and defy the Barons who made him sign the power-limiting document and regain his power.  That is until he arrives at Rochester castle.  The small-sized resistance, led by Baron Albany (Brian Cox) and templar Knight Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy), storm the castle and then defend it from King John’s Danish forces day after day.  Featuring Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook, and Kate Mara, the characters of Ironclad aren’t too original.  Yes, large parts of Ironclad are stereotypical and flat, yet Giamatti’s performance and Purefoy’s temptations save the narrative from being too historical for its own good.

With its reported $25 million dollar budget, Ironclad isn’t attempting to compete at the box office.  There is essentially one main location and, staying true to the history surrounding it, it supremely gets defiled and gutted and attacked time and time again.  English doesn’t shy away from the gore either.  Arms are severed, heads are sliced off, bodies are gutted and catapulted into the air (or against walls) and none are sparred.  Ultimately, the amount of gore keeps the film from slipping into the less than spectacular category and livens up the déjà vu felt by the audience.

Giamatti is a raving panther as King John.  Each syllable is pronounced as if it were a savory meal he is eagerly ripping into.  Spittle flies from his lips and, ultimately, he turns in a great performance as the power-hungry king.  He is a Saturday matinee sadist shouting up to heaven and plays to the rafters throughout Ironclad.  Indeed, this is a remarkable performance from the actor who has yet to, even in Howard Stern’s Private Parts, turn in a sudsy performance.

While based on a little-known footnote in English history, Ironclad sells its fiction well enough to be engaging more often than not.  Ruthless in its bloodshed and body splitting moments of heavy metal, the film is not for the faint of heart.  Fight scenes, graphic and full of fury and fervor, dominate the film.  There’s not much to the plot.  It’s a siege; a stand-off between two opposing forces and, if you know your history, you know what happens in the end…except from what the writers – Erick Kastel and English – have changed.  After all that rage and tears, we have to have a happy ending…of sorts.

Brutal more than it is beautiful, Ironclad might just be the best (and safest) vehicle for graphic medieval heavy metal action without actually going into battle.


{2jtab: Film Details}

ironcladMPAA Rating: R for strong graphic brutal battle sequences, and brief nudity.
: Jonathan English
: Jonathan English, Erick Kastel, Stephen McDool
Cast: Kate Mara; Brian Cox, Paul Giamatti; James Purefoy; Jason Flemyng
: Action | Adventure
Heavy metal goes medieval
Memorable Movie Quote: "Have you ever killed a man, squire? It is not a noble thing. Not even when it is for God!"
ARC Entertainment
Official Site:
Release Date: No theatrical release
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 26, 2011

Synopsis: Ironclad recounts one of the most violent, pivotal moments in English medieval history – when a few good men fought against insurmountable odds to defend their country from a megalomaniac, blood-drunk king. Torn from the pages of history, the devastating battle for the castle of Rochester is a true story of honour, action and excitement. There will be blood.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}


Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

2 stars

Blu-ray Experience
2.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - July 26, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English, French, & Spanish
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region-free

The 1080p transfer is fairly sharp even if its color palette will make you see mostly blues and grays.  Detail is fine with plenty of hand-banging action and sword-swinging moments.  Murky reds are splashed onto the land and the screen during the bloody and savage attacks and the handheld camera is unrelenting in what it so graphically depicts.  The grain layer is perfect and the blacks, while a bit inconsistent, keep the stylized look pure and detailed.  The sound, presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, is strong with dialogue at a minimum and battle sounds at a level 10.



  • Provided by English, the commentary is low-key affair and fairly straight-forward.  The commentary is full of production details and, while never completely boring, is pretty standard.

Special Features:

Outside of a basic trailer for the film, Ironclad has no special features.  Boo.

{2jtab: Trailer}


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