Judge David Johnson is clad in irony.
A new chapter in savage Medieval warfare.
Following the blood-soaked events of the siege of Rochester Castle depicted in the first Ironclad, new violence is set to unspool. Another castle is about to get razed to the ground. This time by a war-band of Celtic ravagers. Driven mad with vengeance over the death of his son, the Celtic chieftain mounts an unrelenting assault against the castle, threatening to kill ever man, woman and child within its walls.
Mortally wounded and desperate, the king sends his son out to get help. His target: the king's nephew, Guy (Thomas Austen), a noted bad-ass with a sketchy history but willingness to get his hands filthy with his opponents' blood. The prince makes a convincing case, so Guy and a few of his sword-for-hire pals make their way to the siege and get their violence on. But, this being an Ironclad movie, it's all going to end bloody and the survivors can be counted on one forcefully amputated hand.
As a fan of the original Ironclad, I had moderately high expectations for the follow-up. The original writer/director, Jonathan English, was back in the saddle for the sequel and more of the same relentless, siege-centered Medieval warfare was promised. On paper, Battle for Blood seemed to have the necessary ingredients for a killer outing.
But something is missing here. The first suspect has to be the cast. While Austen and Michelle Fairley are no stiffs, the cast doesn't measure up to the original's lineup, highlighted by a bad-ass James Purefoy, Brian Cox and a legendary scenery-chewing dickhead performance by Paul Giamatti. Add to that the historical significance of this excursion doesn't match up with the original's; the story this go-round is pretty much a family soap opera/revenge saga doused with sinew.
The biggest discrepancy between the two films is the action. And, really, even if we took away the first Ironclad as a baseline reference, the mayhem in Battle for Blood would still disappoint. Obviously dealing with a tighter budget this time around, English has been forced to deemphasize some of the bigger set-pieces, focusing more on intimate battle encounters—which would be fine, if these battles were a) creatively staged or b) shot with a modicum of stability. For some reason, English chooses to dial down his frame-rate for virtually every action moment and what could have been a nice touch to add some visceral smack to the bludgeoning melts down into a gimmicky eye-gouger. What are you doing man?
The DVD: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and a making-of featurette.
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Studio: XLrator Media
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