Monday, July 11, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: IRONCLAD (2011)


Directed by: Jonathan English
Written by:  Jonathan English
                    Erick Kastel
                   Stephen McDool

James Purefoy as Marshall

Paul Giamatti as King John
Brian Cox as Albany
Mackenzie Crook as Marks
Jason Flemyng as Beckett
Derek Jacobi as Cornhill
Kate Mara as Lady Isabel
Jamie Foreman
Charles Dance - Archbishop Langton
Aneurin Barnard as Guy

Plot:  A Templar knight and a ragtag band of warriors hold out for months against the hard-fought siege of Rochester Castle in 1215.  Set just after King John's signing of the Magna Carta treaty, the group struggles against the King to defend the freedom iof their country.
Gotham Gal says:  Well isn't that a tidy little plot summary from Wikipedia?  But that basically is the entire plot of IRONCLAD.  The film opens with King John signing the Magna Carta and a voice-over telling the audience that there was more to the story than previously known.  IRONCLAD is what happened after the signing, when King John (Paul Giamatti relishing the chance to play a King), still pissed off at being forced to sign, decides to get back at all the barons in the kingdom because that's just the kind of douchebag that he is.  He hires a band of Danish mercenaries, telling them that he will keep the Pope from Christianizing Denmark, if they help him. Oh, and he'll pay them a bunch of money as well, but apparently the whole keep the Pope out of Denmark is more important to them.
Meanwhile, Thomas Marshal (played by the delectable James Purefoy) has returned to England after many years fighting in the Holy Land. He stops at a castle belonging to the King, along with several priests.  The King arrives, and because the chuch supported the barons, the priests are killed but Marshal manages to escape and make his way to Canterbury where he runs into Albany (Brian Cox) who has decided to continue the rebellion against the King.  It seems that John has been killing off all the barons who signed Magna Carta and Albany is determined to stop him by taking Rochester Castle, which is located on the coast.  Apparently, the French are also supposed to be making their way to England to help.
Albany manages to cobble together a group of about 6 guys along with Marshal to hold the castle. They make their way to Rochester where Cornhill is forced into helping them.  From here on in, the film is one long battle scene interspersed with a few scenes of the men squabbling, learning to write their names, starving, and more squabbling.  The battle scenes are incredibly bloody, body parts flying everywhere, blood spurting from every orifice.  After awhile, I couldn't look at it any more, I just covered my eyes until they were over.
This is a film that requires you to check your brain at the door.  Otherwise, you start wondering as I did, why Albany (D'Aubigny in real life) could only find like 6 men to help? Seriously, there had to have been more people pissed off at the king than that.  Oh, and Thomas Marshal, the Knight Templar, is like a one man killing machine to the point of it being ridiculous. Although the way he wields his sword is incredibly sexy.  I might have to start reading some medieval romances now after seeing this movie.
There is something of a love story, if you can call it that.  Kate Mara (not to be confused with her sister Rooney) plays Lady Isabel, the wife of Cornhill (played by the great Derek Jacobi).  According to Wikipedia, Megan Fox was attached at one point to play this role.  Thank god she dropped out because she would have been terrible. Seriously, Megan Fox attempting an English accent? She can barely speak American English.  Anywhoo, Lady Isabel is seriously horny because Cornhill who is much, much older has no interest in her other than telling her not to drink wine or do anything fun. So of course, the minute she spies Thomas Marshal, her hormones go into overdrive.  See despite his vows of chastity, he just oozes testosterone what with all the killing he's been doing.  Plus he's incredibly noble, he doesn't like killing, even in the name of God.
So of course, Lady Isabel has to get her some of that man candy.  At first she creeps up on him while he's sharpening his sword (hint, hint). Of course, he's partially dressed, with his shirt artfully open to display one tantalizing man titty, lightly dusted with hair.  While Lady Isabel salivated to reach out and touch him, so did every woman in the audience.  I'm telling you it was nice to see a man objectified for a change.  Of course, he tells her know, because he's a Templar and took vows and all.  But Lady Isabel is not deterred, oh no.  What with people dying left and right, she's determined to get some before they all get killed.  This time, she decides to show him the goods by lifting up her dress.  Apparently he liked what he saw because before you can say "Hail Mary," they're doing it in the barn.  Not that the audience got to see anything, since nobody was getting killed.  Instead, we just got a little bit of afterglow on Lady Isabel while Marshal glowered (James Purefoy gives very good glower and smoldering, man can he smolder) at her, calling what they did a sin.
Of course, all turns out well in the end, despite half the castle getting blown up (this actually happened).  The French miraculously arrive in time (which didn't happen) and John is a sore loser.  Again this didn't happen, in real life, the remaining occupants finally surrendered, and John died a year later, leaving his young son Henry III to continue his fight with the barons. I can't quarrel with the acting in this film.  Paul Giamatti plays King John as a petty tyrant but who is very aware of the importance of the crown and wielding power. This is a King John who is not ready to give an inch or to compromise.  James Purefoy has what the New York Times called an 'arresting screen presence.'  He manages to say more without any words than any actor I have seen. And he's hot.  Kate Mara has very little to do as Lady Isabel but be pretty and horny, which she does admirably.  It was fun to see Derek Jacobi and Brian Cox together on film, particularly after having met Derek a few weeks ago.  Was it worth the 'gulp' $13.00 I spent to see this film? No, not really, but it was fun nevertheless.
Gotham Gal verdict:  3 red apples.

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