Starring: Michelle Fairley, Tom Austen, Danny Webb
In 13th century Britain the land that fell on the boarder of England and Scotland was a brutal place, filled with violence and never-ending vengeance. With the residents of a castle trapped and outnumbered from a group of violent Scots, Hubert (Tom Rhys Harries) is sent to find his cousin, Guy (Austen), a survivor of the siege of the brutal siege of Rochester castle five years ago. However, he is now a mercenary for hire and despite this being for family, demands payment for his services. With three other mercenaries joining them, the five return to help defend the castle, where not only will Guy’s ability with a sword be tested, but his loyalty to his family.
I really enjoyed 2011s Ironclad, yes of course it had plenty of flaws and clichés, but was a really enjoyable violent medieval romp, and in my view a film that is both underrated and is still a film that hasn’t been seen by as many people as it should have been. If you want a thoroughly enjoyable 100 minutes of swords and axes chopping limbs off, James Purefoy being more brooding than ever and Paul Giamatti chewing a lot of scenery all achieved very well by writer/director Jonathan English considering the low budget, then I highly recommend Ironclad.
However, as much as I loved Ironclad, I was neither expecting nor desperately crying out for a sequel. Well, here it is, and it is quite frankly a shame Jonathan English didn’t feel the same as Ironclad: Battle for Blood is rubbish whether compared to its predecessor or judged in isolation.
Armed with an even smaller budget than with the first outing, English once again does an admirable job when the cast are hacking lumps and limbs out of each other, even if the CGI is sometimes dodgy and the shaky camera work is more than a little migraine inducing. Given the budget of Battle for Blood that may be forgivable, however the fact every other storytelling element is shockingly bad is not.
Though it may be a cut and paste siege tale of an outnumbered group protecting a castle to the death just like its predecessor, Ironclad had slightly higher stakes with characters having an admirable cause. However Battle for Blood is just two groups that are as bad as each other. It is impossible to care for either of them or any of the characters, which is not helped by the horrendous dialogue and the characters themselves being quite unlikeable. When not actually fighting, the characters tend to make speeches about it, and the constant use of clichés and clunky dialogue makes for quite a jarring viewing experience.
Admittedly Ironclad may not have been so entertaining without its generous helping of British thesps in the cast (and panto dame Paul Giamatti), but the acting in Battle for Blood from a cast of predominantly unknowns is either over the top brooding, shouting or pouting. Even the character of Guy is played by a different actor, and they do not even attempt to have the new actor (Tom Austen) look anything like the original actor (Aneurin Barnard). His character does have potential, but the script lets Austen’s half decent performance of brooding intensity (but not Purefoy level) down.
It seems even Jonathan English lost interest after a while, as when there is a little bit of intrigue and potential tension, the film’s ending is a total cop out and anti-climax, not to mention extremely lazy writing. I understand you may have completely run out money Jonny Boy, but try a little harder! I will of course refrain from spoilers, but it is not a spoiler to say that the Ironclad: Battle for Blood is absolute rubbish.
Ironclad: Battle for Blood is not only a pointless sequel, but one that never even seems to try to justify its existence which no one really demanded anyway. Though the brutal battle scenes are OK in context of the film’s budget, the extremely lacklustre script, story, acting and ending make for a real snooze-fest that is best avoided.