'Sword of Vengeance': Film Review

Blood red is the only color you'll see in this no-frills actioner

Jim Weedon's sword-and-sandals epic is set in 11th century England after the genocidal campaign of William the Conqueror

The title of Jim Weedon's single-minded period action film pretty much says it all. Featuring enough clanging sword fights, severed limbs, slit throats and bare-bones dialogue to satisfy genre fans while pretty much failing to provide something of interest to anyone else, Sword of Vengeance has the feel of an 11th century-set video game.

The opening titles predictably set the scene, informing us of the wide swatch of genocide perpetrated by William the Conquerer after the 1066 Battle of Hastings. But that's pretty much it in terms of a history lesson as the film proceeds to depict the efforts of Norman prince Shadow Walker (Stanley Weber) to exact vengeance on his uncle, the ruthless Earl Durant (Karl Roden), who rules the north of England in Saddam Hussein-style with his equally sociopathic sons Lord Artus (Gianna Giardinelli) and Lord Roman (Edward Akrout). We eventually learn that Shadow Walker, who rallies a large band of exiled rebel farmers improbably led by the beautiful Anna (Annabelle Wallis) to his cause, has a personal stake in the matter since it was his uncle who murdered his father.  

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Cue the ensuing mayhem, as the proceedings largely consist of a series of ultra-violent set pieces filmed in a bleakly monochromatic visual style in which the crimson of the freely spilled blood is the only discernible color. Judging by the film, it would seem that the main thing in short supply during the Middle Ages was sunshine. (It was shot in Serbia in the middle of winter, and looks it).

Influenced by Japanese samurai epics and the Italian spaghetti westerns that followed in their wake, the film is certainly efficient in pursuing its goals, with the scarcity of dialogue no doubt contributing to its brisk 86-minute running time.

Wallis, who starred in the recent horror hit Annabelle, isn't quite convincing as the fiery heroine. But the chiseled, handsome Weber, whose beautifully coiffed cornrows suggest his character had time for long hairstyling sessions between battles, is a suitably taciturn, macho hero in the Eastwood tradition, even managing to make such declarations as "Vengeance is my only belief" sound convincing.  

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Director Weedon, making his feature debut after cutting his teeth editing music videos and television commercials, stages the nearly non-stop action with admirable stylishness, albeit not without frequently resorting to such visual clichés as slow-motion. While it's not all entirely convincing—such as when the chief villain effortlessly breaks the neck of one hapless victim with the skill of a malevolent chiropractor—it will certainly please the sort of die-hard fans who will constitute the primary audience.

Production: Vertigo Films
Cast: Stanley Weber, Annabelle Wallis, Ed Skrein, David Legeno, Karel Roden, Edward Akrout, Gianna Giardinelli
Director: Jim Weedon
Screenwriter: Julian Unthank
Producers: Rupert Preston, Huberta von Liel
Executive producers: Allan Niblo, James Richardson, Nigel Williams, Matthew Read
Director of photography: August Jakobsson
Production designer: Jelena Sopic
Editor: Tommy Boulding
Costume designer: Stefan Savkovic
Composer: Stephen Hilton

No rating 86 min.

 

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