Coherently shot action sequences are increasingly the province of limited-release and straight-to-VOD titles, and so it is in Ironclad: Battle for Blood — at least for a time. None of the cast members from the original account of King John storming Rochester Castle in the 13th century (James Purefoy, Kate Mara, Brian Cox, and Paul Giamatti, not all of whose characters survived) returns for this low-rent sequel, replaced largely by cannon fodder. We watch as two poor souls fight to the death in an early scene, first with bare fists and then with implements thrown in by conniving spectators. The orange glow of the torches lighting this melee brings out every speck of dirt and drop of blood. (Large-scale skirmishes are impressive in their griminess, too — watch for a castle siege complete with war paint and roaring flames.) Co-writer/director Jonathan English ups the viscera and nudity at the expense of a compelling narrative, which was hardly the original’s strong suit (if indeed it had one) anyway. But he privileges this gore to such an extent that it feels too much like an end unto itself, and there’s little joy to be had in well-crafted battle scenes with so many severed limbs flying about. Battle for Blood is ultimately too accurate a subtitle; this film is a bloodbath, and not an edifying one in the slightest.
Jonathan EnglishMichelle Fairley, Roxanne McKee, Rosie Day, Danny Webb, Andy Beckwith, David Caves, Tom Austen, David Rintoul, Predrag Bjelac, Twinnie Lee MooreJonathan English, Stephen McDoolXLrator Media