Sword of Vengeance
Sword of Vengeance seeks to cash in on a recent renaissance in historical action cinema, spearheaded by recent films such as Exodus: Gods and Kings. The plot can be pretty accurately surmised from the title alone, centring on a nameless nomad (played by Stanley Weber) who joins with a band of Saxons in 11th century Northern England to defend the settlement they’ve constructed principally from sticks and mud from the ruthless Norman invaders. Those expecting a history lesson will go away disappointed as what bare context exists boils down to an excuse for the sneering Normans (replete with the least consistent set of Gaelic accents heard since ‘Allo ‘Allo was taken off the air) to send ever-increasing waves of armoured fodder to be decimated by the plucky natives.
The mysterious-stranger-with-a-past trope is a tried and tested one (it’s been the basis for many a good Western), but the Sword of Vengeance forgets to grant much in the way of personality or identity to any of the ensemble. Without characters in which to emotionally invest, the endless parade of gruesome fight scenes feels exploitative and tedious. This effect is only exasperated by a hackneyed romantic subplot and its accompanying gratuitous sex scene – dropped into the centre of the film like afterthought toward character development.
Perhaps at the expense of story, director Jim Weedon has at least managed to impart a strong visual style, with the palette uniformly muted and saturated to a degree likely to send audiences watching at home reaching for their TV’s display menu. This lends a distinct moody foreboding to establishing shots of the protagonists wandering through their muddy homeland in slow motion (of which there are many), but crucially robs the close combat scenes of the clarity required to appreciate the stunt work on display. When the film has little to offer beyond a showcase of steel-on-steel action, this is a fatal error. Even those initially attracted by the prospect of unrelenting action are likely have lost interest by the third or fourth time an indistinct blur of melee has resulted in someone being stabbed through the stomach until blood pours from their mouth.
While a recent resurgence of popularity in the subject matter means that a large theoretical audience for Sword of Vengeance exists, there is little within this derivative and poorly executed film to recommend it to even the most fervent fan of the genre.
Sword of Vengeance is released nationwide on 29th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for Sword of Vengeance here: