December 13, 2014

Ironclad: Battle for Blood (2014)

Directed by Jonathan English. Starring Michelle Fairley ("Joan De Vesci"), Roxanne McKee ("Blanche"), Tom Austen ("Guy the Squire"), and Danny Webb ("Mr. Smith"). Not Rated.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Xlrator/Arc Entertainment)
Running time: 01:47:58
Country: UK, Serbia

This sequel occurs during the aftermath of the first movie (the year 1221 to be specific), which saw the downfall of the dastardly King John. This time, the survivors of the Rochester siege go head-to-head with an invading Scottish clan.

Just like the first movie, the protagonists in BATTLE FOR BLOOD, for the most part, are a collection of misfits. To battle the blood-thirsty Celtic clan, the Rochester crew (the de Vescis) assemble a group who can help them protect the castle. Specifically, the youngest de Vesci is sent out by his father to collect some warriors. His search leads him to his estranged cousin, Guy the Squire, who competes in underground fights and uses his prize money for hookers and beer. An acquaintance of Guy's comes along too - a mysterious, silent type who looks like a vampire. They also rescue a woman named Crazy Mary from execution and even recruit the executioner for good measure.

BATTLE FOR BLOOD sort of follows the same formula as the first IRONCLAD. It's essentially a medieval siege movie with a battle-regroup-repeat structure. But whereas the first one revolved around a power struggle, the feud in this one is more circumstantial - you have a pissed-off clan on one side and you have a group of people defending the honor of their family and home on the other. The characters are interesting on both sides and the film spends quite a bit of time with both the protagonists and antagonists. While this sequel doesn't have the same type of high profile names as its predecessor, the actors here still do a good job. In particular, I quite liked Tom Austen as Guy the Squire. Fans of newer horror might also recognize actress Rosie Day from the excellent THE SEASONING HOUSE and Roxanne McKee from the not-so-excellent (but entertaining) WRONG TURN 5.

Aside from the plot structure, another familiar element is the excessive use of shaky cam. It's like someone with Parkinsons was holding the camera for half the movie.

In comparing this to the first IRONCLAD, this one has some advantages and disadvantages in my opinion. This one feels more self-contained and claustrophobic, which I thought worked well. The family dynamic of the protagonists also added more of an emotional element to the story. The level of violence is about the same in terms of gore but the battle scenes don't feel as grand this time around, which could be attributed to the film having less of a budget behind it. That said, the practical effects are still present and accounted for but there's also a bit of CGI this time around. Overall, I wouldn't call BATTLE FOR BLOOD better than its predecessor (despite my higher score stating otherwise) but I got more enjoyment out of it and liked the simplicity and rawness of it.

Score: 7

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