|Judging by hair and makeup, I'd guess a period comedy|
Ironclad opens with some narration about some of the basic reasons King John of England (Paul Giamatti) was forced to sign the Magna Carta, the document that essentially began the decline of the monarchy in the West and the rise of the individual. This movie is not about the signing of the Magna Carta, though. Ironclad is the story of what happened next, which is often overlooked. After signing this important historical document, King John quickly waged war on the barons that had forced him to sign it, and he did it with Danish mercenaries.
|All of whom were designed by Frank Frazetta|
|Actual dialogue: "YEAAARRGH!"|
I don't have any real problems with the idea of Ironclad. Sure, I realize that the details of the film are not historically accurate, in the same way that the course of history isn't accurate when you play Sid Meier's Civilization on "Easy."
|Above: my Civilization III navy, circa 1400|
While I have no problem with the idea behind Ironclad, I have some significant problems with its execution, starting with the cast. Brian Cox was over-dramatic, but it was a part that called for some bombastic speeches, and he delivered them with enthusiasm. Vladimir Kulich was pretty entertaining as John's lead Danish henchman, but he didn't get enough opportunities to show off. I was conflicted over Paul Giamatti's performance as King John, though. I liked that John isn't portrayed as a coward or a spoiled child, as he typically is. I'm fine with the choice to make him into a meanie jerkface. But Giamatti's typically solid performance has a hard time overcoming the fact that he looks like this:
|You know...like Paul Giamatti in a bad wig and silly clothes|
|You'd think something cool was happening here, but no|
|Example: Crook was referred to as "Gareth"|
Ironclad is not a complete waste of time, though. Director Jonathan English may not have shown any skill in making me care about the fate of any of these characters and he may have co-written a script that is not terribly accurate from the historical perspective, but he did manage to do this:
But is that enough to recommend Ironclad? Uh, no. A movie like this doesn't need to have witty banter or a well-written supporting cast, but it does need two or three important elements: a hero you root for, a villain you love to hate, and/or a romance that you give a damn about. Purefoy's character isn't charismatic, he just seems weary, and that's a tough lead character type to watch.
|This is his "I'm glad we're having pie" look|