It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebels' momentous struggle for justice and freedom.
Take a rather large bit of liberty with English medieval history, throw in some rather garbled declamations about the Magna Carta (yes, it led to more democracy, but no, it had nothing to do with liberating peasants, just giving the aristocracy more powers of their own versus the king's power) and take a huge bunch of medieval war-story battle clichés, and you have "Ironclad." You see, wicked King John (Paul Giamatti, not attempting an English accent), after having been forced to sign the document, then completely ignores its contents and instead goes after the noble signers and kills them one by one. Of course, to do this he must recruit a Danish army, which he does by promising the leader Tiberius (Vladimir Kulich, channelling the elder Malfoy) that the Pope will see to it that no Christians come in to take over the Danes' land and to convert them to Christianity. Against this vast horde are a motley group of seven (yes, this is based on "The Magnificent Seven," in part), led by Knight Templar Marshall (James Purefoy, so good in "Rome") and Baron Albany (Brian Cox, so good in, well, everything). In order to stop King John from continuing his tyrannous ways, they decide to take and hold the castle at Rochester, from whence the entire South of England can be held; to do so, they must take the current occupant, Lord Cornhill (the magnificent Derek Jacobi), and his young rebellious wife Isabel (Kate Mara) hostage. And in the process, young Guy (Aneurin Barnard, aka Frodo with a Sword), squire to Albany, must learn if he's a man or a boy. Can the Magnificent Seven – sorry, the Forces for Good – hold off an entire army laying siege to the castle for long enough (you see, the French are coming to their aid)? Can noble Marshall withstand the wicked wiles of the lovely woman, Isabel? Will Paul Giamatti get to have at least one pull-out-all-the-stops raving rant shouted at the top of his lungs? Well, what do you think? This is actually an extremely bloody movie for a mainstream film, lots of limbs shown being cut off and the like. But it's also quite a silly movie too, at least if you know any history. Suspension of disbelief is paramount in such action films, yet we constantly see Isabel and the other women of the castle wandering around freely, with their hair floating around the shoulders and bare arms and cleavage everywhere. In fact, Christian women (at least noble and/or respectable women) in 13th Century England wore wimples to cover their hair and were quite restricted in their movements, much like Muslim women in some countries today. And chopping off various limbs generally resulted in the victim bleeding out in minutes, not sort of lingering on for a few rousing statements to his mates. Still and all, this was a lot of fun if you don't mind cheering for either side as the mood strikes; seeing it with a FantAsia 2011 crowd was probably the best way to see it at all.
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