A Droid Premiere – Ironclad (2011)

A Droid PremiereI haven’t had the written a Premiere review for a while, so here’s a quick reminder of the category. Essentially it’s dedicated to the small number of films that I bother to see before anyone else. It’s intended to spread the word, be it positive or negative, about a film that might be of interest to your good self. This is such an occasion.

Ironclad PosterAnother year, another sword and stabbery epic gets the pointy end of the distributors spear. We’ve had many a disenchanted discussion about the repeated shafting of films like Outlander, Solomon Kane and Centurion. After blink and you miss one week runs at the cinema caused me to miss out on the first two out of those films, I’ve made it a point to get out and support these underrated gems. So this week I saw that another such film had snuck it’s way onto a couple of screens. Like a good, faithful servant of the genre, I sought out a cinema that was playing it. Much to my dismay, I discovered that ‘Ironclad’ is the shining example of why these films get shafted.

Ironclad-1Months after pledging his support to the Magna Carta in the year 1215, King John (Paul Giamatti) reneges on his commitment and assembles an army of Danish mercenary’s to seize back control of England. A small rebellion lead by a Templar Knight (James Purefoy) and Baron Albany (Brian Cox) take control of the strategically placed Rochester Castle, forcing King John into a months long war of attrition as the rebels desperately await the arrival of the French, and with them the new King of England.

Ironclad-2It pains me greatly to say, but ‘Ironclad’ is a terrible film. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of co-writer and director Jonathan English. The bastard child of Paul Greengrass and a hyperactive spastic, English completely and utterly ruins the film with handheld, queasy cam, low angle, over-edited, nauseatingly unwatchable camerwork. From the very first skirmish I honestly considered getting up and leaving. It’s that bad. Funnily enough, only half an hour into the film the bloke behind me did just that. Good on him. Only adding to the problem is the amount of screen time dedicated to incomprehensible carnage. Clocking in at a bloated two hours, I’d have to say that at least half the film is a confusing barrage of shapes and blurs masquerading as battle, with the camera far to close too the action and endlessly whipping around in an uncontrolled frenzy.

That’s one half of the film. The other half is dedicated to half-baked clichés about faith, religion and the honour of war. I paraphrase, because by that time I was barely even listening, but when Purefoy delivers the line “There is no honour in killing a man, but there is honour in fighting for others” I didn’t know whether to laugh or hurl some useless inanimate object at the screen. Alas, I was not sitting next to Jonathan English so I chose to laugh.

Ironclad-3The most frustrating thing about ‘Ironclad’, apart from the fact that the genre has seen a resurgence in the last couple of years with the release of the excellent film listed above, is that quite an excellent cast has been completely wasted. Just look at this list of actors and tell me you don’t expect something special. James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Mackenzie Crook, Jason Flemyng, Derek Jacobi, Kate Mara, Charles Dance, and Vladimir Kulich. Instead of these actors filling the screen with personality, they spend most of their time either brooding in torment over their faith, barking terrible dialogue at each other or being required to provide endless horrified reaction shots while looking upon the bloody gore of the battle. Giamatti, nearly always a wonderful, offbeat screen presence is hopelessly miscast as King John. Out of sheer professionalism he tries to make it work, but even his superior talents come up short.

Ironclad-4As you may have guessed, Ironclad is a massive disappointment. It honestly is the worst directed film I’ve seen in a long, long time. It completely wastes an excellent cast and fails to create a single interesting character. The fact that it was made for a whopping $25 million (to put it into perspective, the infinitely superior Centurion was made for only $12 million) just pours salt into the wound. I’ll cut this review short. I could rant further, but I want to forget I ever saw this film. So for all of the above and more, I give Ironclad the Angry A*P*E*. I feel your pain, my friend. Please take my word as gospel on this matter, and avoid Ironclad like talent has avoided Jonathan English.


Take it easy,



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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

31 responses to “A Droid Premiere – Ironclad (2011)”

  1. Frank Marmoset says :

    That’s a shame, this looked like it had potential to at least be an entertaining b-movie with swords and so on. Good cast, too.

    Oh, well, fingers crossed Iron Sky doesn’t disappoint.

    • Droid says :

      It could’ve been okay if it wasn’t so badly directed. And by okay, I mean Black Death “okay”, not Solomon Kane great.

      Yeah, hopefully Iron Sky gets a release.

      • Bartleby says :

        Just wrote up Black Death, and watched it again. It’s not terrific (like a 2.5) but before that ending, which hamstrings it, I found it to be more persuasive on a second viewing. I think it wasnt helped that when we all first saw this is somewhere sandwiched between solomon kane and centurion, both superior movies.

      • koutchboom says :

        You seen the new Ye Ole Expendables Poster for Game of Death or whatever fucking Medieval thing Sean Bean is peddling this week.

      • Droid says :

        I’d give Black Death 2 changs. It’s okay. I saw it after both SK and Centurion, so it paled in comparison.

  2. L Bronco says :


    How could this go wrong?

    I give sandwiches to everybody!

    Is the motherfucker PG-13?

    I bet you it is.

    My best,

    L B

    • Droid says :

      This is actually quite a bloody movie, LB. There’s a fair bit of gore, and in one bit Purefoy actually splits a guy in two. It could’ve been quite fun if it weren’t so annoying.

  3. Bartleby says :

    Oh god this sucks….I was looking forward to this one. I’ll just hope this a case where you and I vary wildly. Somehow, based on your descriptions and that pic that makes Giamatti look like a rabid yorkie in battle gear, I’m thinking that won’t be the case here.

    Well, off to Battle Los Angeles… again, let me say, very well written review Droid. You did a good job of pointing out what’s wrong with this genre when it goes awry. Almost, always, it’s down to the writing.

    See ya, man.

    • Droid says :

      Cheers, Jonah. I hope you find some enjoyment out of this one, but I have to say I’ll be very surprised if you do. The only thing I recommend that might improve the experience is if you watch it on dvd. It might play down the shaky cam a bit.

  4. Xiphos0311 says :

    too bad it sounds like IronClad could have been an entertaining B movie if they had embraced the B Movie concept instead of trying to be a serious movie.

    It seems Purefoy has become the new got to guy for these types of movies and why not he damn good.

  5. DocPazuzu says :

    Too bad…

    Side note: Kulich was great in The 13th Warrior, another cracking adventure yarn given the shaft (I will fight you all on this). In fact, if he had beefed up and dyed his hair black ten years ago he could have been a great Conan. He’s the spitting image of the Ernie Chan version of the Cimmerian in Savage Sword of Conan. Hell, he could still be a great King Conan today.

    Fuck you, Hollywood.

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Doc I doubt anybody will fight you here about The 13th Warrior. I know I won’t.

    • Droid says :

      Kulich was indeed great in 13th Warrior. I think were pretty unanimous here in our approval of that movie. I have to watch that movie again.

    • just pillow talk says :

      Yup, that is a great movie.

      I like the campfire scene where he’s been studying the vikings, learning their language, and when he finally pipes up and says something like “my mother was an honest woman” or something like that, they ask him how he did that… “I listened!”

      I think the atmosphere of the film is great to say the least.

    • Col Tigh-Fighter says :

      The 13th Warrior is a great film. And that campfire scene is a perfect bit of writing, acting, editing, and direction.

      Glad to see the love here.

      Damn shame about Ironclad though. My friend was up for doing sound on it, and was raving something awful about it last year…… saying that though, I tried to read the script and gave up as it was almost uninteligable. Like Tolkien-lite about history. It wanted to be Kingdom of Heaven savvy on its odd historical fact thing, but just named kings, queens, fathers, battles all the time.

      I guess they never sorted it out then!

  6. Xiphos0311 says :

    DocP have you seen the new pics from Conan? They’re semi better then the last batch but something about the production design is off in my opinion, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s off. Anyways here’s the link.


    • DocPazuzu says :

      I know what you mean, Xi. It looks gritty and filthy, yet there’s still something sanitized about it. Still, it looks better than I expected it would. It’s all going to come down to how it’s actually shot and edited, I suppose. I’ve never seen Momoa in anything before but his earlier sci-fi/fantasy baggage worries me a bit. And I hate Nispel.

      Oh well, there’s always Solomon Kane II to look forward to…

  7. Tom_Bando says :

    Remember—A*P*E* is your friend. A*P*E* is the uber Monkey of All Monkey movies. Watching the Infamous Battering Ram Scene(TM), the 3-D Bayonettings and Gorilla Gram SOOT in action–is a doorway to the greater things in life. Yes.

  8. Jarv says :

    Shit. What a disappointment.

    Funny review though.

    So, because I’m not clear- this is a 0 chang movie, but not offensive/ oikish enough to get the Orangutan of Doom?

  9. ThereWolf says :

    That’s a shame, had high hopes for this. I like wobbly-cam though so I might get a bit more out of it.

    I like how the pictures feature blokes in various stages of bellowing dramatically. I’m a big fan of dramatic bellowing.

  10. koutchboom says :

    I’m proud that I got to see Outlander in theaters.

    I EVEN got to see Outlander speak and brought my Outlander and Passion ticket stubs for him to sign. BUT he was only signing some awesome looking bible thing he was hawking.

    I BET he would’ve signed my stubs though, but it was at some creepy ROCK CHURCH and they were pulling people out of the sign line if you didn’t have one of the $40 bibles in your hands.

  11. Spud McSpud says :

    Shame, really. I watched IRONCLAD last week – enjoyed the historical aspect of it, made me interested enough to want to read up more about this little-known piece of history, and then – as you say.


    I read an excellent five-page piece in EMPIRE about the movie, and after reading about scenes like a sword going into a guy’s head through his cheek you think “Aha!! Full-size stabbery! Can’t wait!”. Then you actually see the movie, and the decent gore sequences are cut to shit – and incomprehensible shit at that – in a way that makes you wonder why they bothered. The bits you DO see – Flemyng hacking a battlement marauder’s arm off in several swings, Purefoy cleaving a guy right down the middle – are fucking brilliant, which makes it sting even more that the movie is mostly too messy to watch. The dialogue is dire (though it’s Shakespeare compared to SEASON OF THE WITCH) and the ideas mediocre and cliched. All of this is a shame, since they had a fucking awesome cast, and Giamatti goes bugnuts in his scenes with Brian Cox, which are so great I actually thought it was worth watching just for him. Mrs Spud-To-Be wanted to strangle the insipid, pouty lead female (though she has a major horn for Purefoy, so maybe that was it) and I thought they wasted Purefoy, Dance, and especially Flemyng, who had zero character to work with at all.

    Though what happens to one of the Barons in it near the end… OUCH!

    And who knew you could bring down a castle with three burning pigs and some hay??

    I thought it was passable-to-poor, probably would have preferred to rent it (but you have to support these movies, don’t you?) but there you go. There was enough in it for me to say I didn’t exactly feel like I wasted those two hours, but seeing so much potential wasted… Kind of sad.

    • Droid says :

      Even those moments, such as the splitting the guy down the middle could’ve been so much better if not for the constant shaky whirling camera and the hyper editing. And like I said, Giamatti is his usual professional self, and indeed goes all shouty, which is entertaining, but he’s not right for the role. A good cast was wasted here.

      This might work a little better on home vid, but it’s simply a bad movie.

  12. Spud McSpud says :

    Aha! That’s the comparison!!

    IRONCLAD is the medieval DOMINO.

    Now I feel better.

  13. moviegeek says :

    “Blood does run” indeed!
    This is one of the most brutal in-your-face violent Brit-flicks (and not just British to be honest) I’ve seen in a while.

    In fact its the violence itself that seems to be Ironclad’s selling point. It’s obviously all sold as “realism” but we all know that in this case it’s just another word for gratuitous and exploitive.

    And so as the handheld-shaky-cam swings about and the editing goes crazy hiding the pretty low-budget, limbs fly left, right and centre, hands get chopped off, people get literally sliced in two in the bloodiest and ruthless gore-fest you’ll ever seen.

    To be honest with you, after a while if you just go with the silliness of it all, you might actually even enjoy… Sadly there’s very little left beyond that…

    My Full Review on my Blog:

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