Flesh and Blood is a 1985 movie by Paul Verhoeven, the director who is most notable for his sci-fi films such as Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. In this film he turns his attention to the late Medieval/early Renaissance era with an adventure that follows a group of Landsknecht mercenaries.
It is 1501, and war is raging in Italy. Arnolfini, a rich and powerful warlord is besieging an enemy town. Assisting Arnolfini's army is Captain Martin and his band of mercenary thugs. When Martin's troops are victorious in taking the town, Arnolfini betrays them and confiscates all their loot for himself - booting Martin's men out of the town in the process.
Martin's soldiers find themselves wandering aimlessly through the countryside until they uncover a statue of St. Martin. A cardinal sees this as a sign that they have been favoured by God. Invigorated by this news, the band hatch a plot of revenge against Arnolfini by kidnapping Agnes, the bride to be for Arnolfini's son, Steven. This sets off a series of events that sees them fighting their way across the land, storming a castle, battling knights, and facing a terrible plague.
Despite being mostly ignored during its release, Flesh and Blood is an excellent film, and probably one of the best films about this much ignored time period.
The acting is usually brilliant, especially that by the reliable Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) as the roguish Martin, and the wonderfully over acting Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark) as a mad, self-flagellating Cardinal.
Although it is not entirely accurate, the film does make an attempt at realism with the relatively correct costumes and authentic late medieval castles as sets.
The directing by Verhoeven is good, and the film contains many memorable scenes. The music is an epic orchestral score, and it's good but forgettable. The story moves along at a brisk pace, but it does slow down a bit after the gang find themselves trapped in a castle - although it never becomes boring or dull.
It should be noted that this film is filled with scenes of brutal violence and graphic nudity from the beginning, making no attempt at presenting an idyllic version of the past. Verhoeven wants to present an anti-medieval movie - there are no Knights in shining armour rescuing damsels in distress; instead it is a study of a cruel and savage world. Verhoeven makes sure the film's never too serious and never too silly, making a rather balanced movie.
This film is worth getting if you want to see an action packed medieval adventure movie. Just don't expect a too serious story and you might enjoy it.
The DVD - sadly there aren't any special features, and the menu is primitive - using only symbols instead of words, but there are still chapter selections. The film has a soundtrack in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. There is also a hard of hearing option in English and German.