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Barely getting a theatrical release, Jonathan English's Ironclad shows a lot more ambition than the average independent British film by avoiding the usual debut feature route - mockney gangsters, housing estate miserablism or aimless middle class angst - for a blood and guts tale about the siege of Rochester Castle during the First Barons' War in 1215 when King John attempted to regain the powers he'd ceded with the Magna Carta by killing the barons who forced him to sign it. Not that this is a history lesson. Budgetary limitations see the number of defenders reduced from 100 to 20 against a small army of mercenaries: we're not talking Helms Deep here (something underlined by the casting of Mackenzie Crook rather than Orlando Bloom as the defenders' master bowman), more a medieval Rorke's Drift but with a lot fewer Zulus. There's the expected very loose approach to the facts when they threaten to get in the way of the swordplay, even down to the final fate of the defenders, but then this is the kind of film where a bad guy is clubbed to death with a severed arm just in case you have any lingering doubts where the filmmakers are coming from. What we have is a very bloody Ye Olde Magnificent Seven, as Brian Cox's rebel baron and James Purefoy's tormented Templar recruit a ragbag group of defenders (Jason Flemyng and The Man with No Neck Jamie Foreman among them) to hold out at Derek Jacobi's castle against Vladimir Kulich's Danish mercenaries until French reinforcements can arrive - which may be never.

Unfortunately, while it goes for the throat with a vengeance, the fight scenes tend to all be a bit samey, with much hacking and chopping in half rendered in almost interchangeable shakeycam while the tactics are pretty much by rote until the spectacularly destructive climax (one of the few moments drawn directly from history). The plot developments are predictable too, as Purefoy is tempted by Kate Mara's lady of the castle who's trapped by her own loveless marriage vows while none of the other members of his rapidly depleting band of brothers don't get enough in the way of characterisation for us to care about their fate. Still, Paul Giametti is for the most part a great villain as the pissed off King John, though he's better when simmering with resentment than exploding with rage.

Unfortunately the film's visuals are let down a bit by the clichéd dreary cinematography: obviously post-Magna Carta England was in such dire straits that its people couldn't afford full colour and had to make do with that desaturated stuff that film school students seem to think is visual shorthand for realism. It's not helped by the flat digital photography that robs many scenes of depth of field either. Yet despite its limitations and a feeling of running out of steam a bit in the last third, it's definitely a few chops above the likes of straight-to-video medieval stuff like Barbarossa: Siege Lord, Purefoy makes a very impressive lead and the Americans in the cast manage to hide their accents very well. Perhaps more of a post-pub movie than the classic adventure it could have been, but a pretty fair try all the same.

While the US release has a director's commentary as the sole extra, the UK Blu-ray from Warners offers only some 34 minutes of on-location interviews with the cast and crew to compliment its underwhelming 2.35:1 widescreen transfer.
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on 13 May 2011
If you love siege films then you'll love this.
Based arounf King John's exploits and the Lords of the time forcing the signing of the Magna Carta this focus' on James Purefoys Knight Templar as he wrestles with his conscience and beliefs after time spent on the Crusades.
The film is gritty, visceral and honest in it's approach to war and battle.
Some beautiful vista shots contrast brilliantly with the dirt and poverty of life for the everyday man.

I was gripped from start to finish.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 September 2011
This is a British made historical battle-a-thon, It is set in the aftermath of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John. He was more or less forced to sign and as such, felt somewhat aggrieved, so in the true fashion of all absolute monarchs, he sets about killing (gruesomely) every bally person responsible, that is the Barons and their `Monk Knights', the legendary Knights Templar.

King John is found out by one of the returning Crusader Templars played by James Purefoy (Solomon Kane), he teams up with the Baron of Albany played by the ever good value Brian Cox. They realise that in order to stop King John they will need to hold the strategically important castle of Rochester. King John has enlisted the help of the Danes, with the promise that they will be allowed to carry on worshiping their Pagan Gods and not have the Pope stuff Christianity down their throats. I suspect a bit of gold may have been promised too. They then set about taking the castle, but Albany has rounded up a small band of killing machines that like nothing more than a big ruck. They include Mackenzie Crook making another change of direction from his more sombre roles as in `The Office'.

Rochester is owned by Derek Jacobi playing Cornhill, and he is married to Kate Mara (Isabel), she is somewhat neglected in the bed chamber department and soon finds herself drawn to the mysterious and pious Templar. You just know stuff is going to happen. Meanwhile the siege begins, with trebuchets', siege towers and scaling ladders, plus loads of Viking nutters. They are ridiculously outnumbered but believe that help is on the way from France and so have to hold out.

This is a brilliant film, with blood and guts from the beginning and some excellent performances most notably from Paul Giamatti who plays King John, he was so good at being evil, I found myself swearing at him at one point (very juvenile). The fight scenes are frequent and gory and everyone is covered in filth and grime all the time, the way it would have been, no Hollywood airbrushing thank gawd.

There is some CGI, but it is all done very well, there is a little de rigueur examination of the ethics of faith and the Papacy, but nothing to take this off track from being a blood and gore filled action fest. At 116 minutes, you will feel it is a short film, but you will also feel satisfied, this should have got a much wider circulation and I am so glad I finally got round to seeing it - if you like historical action this is a must see for you.
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on 18 May 2011
I saw this recently at a cinema in Dubai so I am surprised it is soon out on release. As said elsewhere it deserves more support. Surprisingly bloody, and that is probably why, but shame on the distributors. Nevertheless it is a very good film but not for the faint hearted. A sort of Magnificent Seven in armour, and why not!
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on 1 May 2011
Ironclad is based on the historical siege of Rochester castle by King John. The film is period authentic, very violent, totally gripping, spoiled only by an over the top performance by Paul Giametti as King John. But you can feel and smell the period, and if you have a strong stomach, for these were bloody times indeed, you will enjoy this. It deserved a better life in cinemas than the short one it got.
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This is a gritty and very graphic action-packed movie set in the dark ages during the reign of 'King John'
'Thomas' (James Purefoy) returns to England having served the Church in the Crusades, he is due to be released from his 'Templar' vows, however 'England' is a land ruled by 'King John' who after signing the 'Magna-Carta' renages on his promise drafting in an army from europe to crush those that had apposed him.
'Thomas' along with a small group of battle-hardened warriors aim to defend a strategic Castle in Southern England from the 'King' and the drafted-in army......the odds --1000 vs the 20 defenders.
plenty of high drama and action.............worth a spin if yer' into action movies.
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VINE VOICEon 13 April 2013
Like many other reviewers, I agree that this film is best compared to 'Seven Samurai', or 'The Magnificent Seven'. If you are able to let historical accuracy take a back seat, there is a nice little film in here somewhere. Disregard the unnecessary sub-plots, try to forgive the woeful casting of Paul Giamatti as King John, (just for the US market, presumably) and enjoy an old-fashioned blood and guts tale; of castle sieges, and knights in armour. There is sufficient precedent for good films that also threw away the history books. 'The Vikings', 'Excalibur', and many more, all spring to mind.
Focus on the good points. Nice period detail, extremely well staged; violent and bloody deaths and injuries, good use of correct weaponry of the age, and an excellent performance from James Purefoy, as the seemingly immortal, brooding Knight Templar. Sufficient acting gravitas is evident too, with the presence of Charles Dance, Derek Jacobi, and Brian Cox. Try not to dwell on King John's slightly comical army of Viking mercenaries, the speed and accuracy of Mackenzie Crook's arrows, or the over-attractive serving wench, granting her favours to Jason Flemyng. Wait for the frantic battle scenes, the horrific injuries, shown in eye-popping detail, and the grisly punishments handed out by the King. Then, consider the price, less than the cost of large popcorn at your local multiplex, and you will conclude that this is excellent value for money entertainment. And it is not only full of British actors, it is set and filmed in England too. Anything less than four stars would just be churlish.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 July 2011
Basically this film is about despised King John (Paul Giamatti -Lady in the Water) , who is forced by the Barons of England to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, to uphold the rights of free men. However King John goes to the Pope and is told to retake his country, so he hires/persuades a Danish army, lead by blonde man mountain Tiberius (Vladimir Kulich - The 13th Warrior) who is under threat from the Church, of turning they're lands to a Catholic religion. The Barons learn of King Johns plans, and Baron Albany (Brian Cox -Braveheart) get's permission from Archbishop Langton (Charles Dance- Last Action Hero) who agrees & will send word to France for support. So Albany needs to buy time for them & so sets out to recruit a small band of skilled men & friends to hold a choke point, Rochester Castle, to stop/slow King John getting a foothold in the SE of England to launch his attacks on the rest of the country from.

The film is pretty much siege based, set in & around the Castle itself, as we watch bloody violence with explicit hacking & slashing of flesh. As 10 ordinary garrison solider's fight alongside Brian Cox's hand picked, handful of men, Knight Templar Marshall (James Purefoy -Solomon Kane) , mercenaries, Beckett (Jason Flemyng -Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Marks (Mackenzie Crook- Pirates of the Caribbean) & Coteral (Jamie Foreman -Layer Cake) as they face off against over 1,000 Danish men.

It's obvious that the film just doesn't have that feeling or edge about it to make it better than average, and this is most likely, partly due to that prior to production the film's budget was severely cut down, and some actors walked away from this movie, like Megan Fox who was initially cast as the love interest, who was replaced by Kate Mara. But still overall the acting is decent & somewhat believable from the seasoned assortment of actors remaining, although one particular disappointment for me was Paul Giamatti, who was an odd choice as King John, and was severely chewing up the scenery along with Brian Cox at times, if intentional or not to make up for the shortfall of acting talent, was a bit cringy watching them at times. Both are fine actors, and Giamatti who'm i'm a fan of, is an amazing supporting actor in many films iv'e enjoyed, but i'm devastated that he has been wrongly cast in this film.

The action sequences were pretty good on the whole, with some believable Braveheart style mutilation, although they may have been even better with more funding, as the lack of big set pieces made things feel a bit silly when you step back & look at it, i.e getting past the 20 men V's 1000+ because they are in a castle fact, tested even my resolve, as these Danish solider's are relegated to using some flimsy ladders to scale the walls, and there never looks like enough of them on screen any any one time to give the numbers advantage believability, that results in what there is of them really slowly climbing a ladder & 1 v 1 or 1v 2 battles due to the fact that they need to ensure the garrison don't get overwhelmed & end the film too quickly. So despite some decent effects with the blood & gore, a variety of siege techniques that are touched up with obvious B movie style CG effects & it's fast & loose attitude with history, it never felt like the big movie it was intended to be.

In conclusion, if your a huge fan of the medieval era then you will probably enjoy this & be more inclined to overlook it's failings. Even i did up to a point, but IMO this genre has been done a lot better, admittedly with bigger budgets, so you have to at least respect what they manage to achieve. For the mainstream viewer, something along the lines of the fantasy of Solomon Kane or The 13th Warrior, or even Kingdom of Heaven has a siege battle for example, as alternatives they'd be a minor to major improvement over this TBH. Worth a watch.
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on 27 July 2013
I had heard about this film on release and was quite keen to see it but time passed and I don't remember it appearing at my local cinemas. It then popped up as a film I might be interested in whilst ordering another on Amazon so I had a look at the reviews. Frankly they put me off as I don't like excessive violence in films and I didn't order the film for several months. Eventually I decided that I just had to take the plunge and buy it and I found the film compelling and memorable.

The acting was excellent, the characterisations good (especially James Purefoy's templar) and the settings appear realistic - you can almost smell the body odour! Yes, it is true to say that there is quite a bit of graphic violence in the fight scenes but it isn't generally dwelt on (apart from the hacking off of an arm - I closed my eyes during this!). I found the fate of Brian Cox's baron harder to stomach so had to shut my eyes again! I would say that I have an interest in history and was aware of the siege of Rochester but haven't studied the events surrounding this siege closely. Maybe if you are a purist and know the facts of what happened you might find the film unsatisfactory, but the same can be said of most adaptations of well-loved novels.

I would therefore thoroughly recommend the film. It's great value at only £3.00 too.
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on 2 October 2013
I got this, to be honest, to see ANEURIN BARNARD, who I think is incredibly talented, and extremely nice to look at !!!. This film also has some other actors I like ( James Purefoy, Derek Jacobi and Jason Flemyng ) but Aneurin was THE main attraction, and the reason for wanting to watch and buy this film.
It's a graphic film, very bloody and the special effects of the slicing and dicing is impressive. I admit to having to peek through my fingers at times ( NOT when Aneurin was on screen, obviously ! ) like when a brutal end was apparent. For some reason, although the cover states that there was subtitling, I couldn't get them on my dvd player, and they would have been helpful as there's a lot of action, and times when dialogue is missed because of that, or because there is just so much going on.
I was actually born in Rochester, Kent but ending up living across the Medway in Strood - visiting and going into Rochester Castle was a frequent, and enjoyable outing for me as a teenager - so this film had added attraction for me - apart from Aneurin. Honestly !.
I wouldn't recommend eating while watching it, unless you have a strong stomach - I did feel rather queasy at some of the methods of despatch !. It's perhaps a bit light on the plot line but a very good film, and definitely worth a look.
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