'Admiral': Film Review

Admiral Still - H 2016
Courtesy of XLrator Media

Admiral Still - H 2016

This lavish period drama is only at sea when it's not at sea.

Roel Reine's Dutch historical epic depicts the adventures of 17th-century naval hero Michiel de Ruyter.

Not being terribly knowledgeable about 17th century Dutch history, I can't vouch for the accuracy or lack thereof of Roel Reine's film about the country's famed naval hero Michiel de Ruyter. But I can say that Admiral, one of the most expensive Dutch films of all time, is a rousing swashbuckling adventure whose elaborately staged sea battles provide ample compensation for the sometimes murky dramatic sections. The presence of such well-known performers as Charles Dance and Rutger Hauer should provide some appeal on VOD, although the obscurity of the subject matter on these shores will inevitably limit its box-office prospects.

The film devotes as much screen time to the political intrigues of the era as its battle sequences, depicting the internecine struggles between the Orangists, who favor monarchical rule and who wish to see Prince William (Egbert Jan Weeber) in power, and the Republicans, who have elected Johan de Witt (Barry Atmsa) as their prime minister. Scheming on behalf of the former is England's King Charles II (Dance, in patented villainous mode), at least when he's not indulging his considerable lecherous appetite.

When Admiral Maarten Tromp (Hauer), the leader of the Dutch fleet, is killed in battle, de Witt recruits the reluctant de Ruyter (Frank Lammers) to assume command. The burly, laconic de Ruyter has little interest in politics, but he patriotically agrees to serve his country in its wars against England, France and Germany.

Working on his native turf is now unusual for the Dutch-born filmmaker, who has spent much of his career in America, having to his credit such direct-to-video titles as Man with the Iron Fists 2 and Scorpion King: Battle for Redemption, as well as two Death Race sequels. He's clearly working with a much more substantial budget with this effort, pulling out all the stops with the lavish battle sequences featuring a combination of real-size ship replicas, models and CGI effects. They're by far the best scenes in the film, which tends to sputter in its lengthy and confusing talkier sections in which de Ruyter, engagingly played by Lammers, unfortunately disappears from the screen for long stretches at a time.

Distributor: XLrator Media
Production: Farmhouse Film, Michiel de Ruyter Filmfonds, A-Film, AVROTROS, Cine Cri de Coeur BNP Partibas Fortis Film Finance
Cast: Frank Lammers, Sanne Langelaar, Barry Atsma, Egbert Jan-Weeber, Rutger Hauer, Charles Dance
Director-executive producer-director of photography: Roel Reine
Screenwriters: Alex van Galen, Lars Bloom
Producer: Klaas de Jong
Production designer: Ruben Schwartz
Editor: Radu Ion
Costume designers: Martina Fehmer, Margriet Procee
Composer: Trevor Morris
Casting: Janusz Gosschalk, Gillian Hawser

Not rated, 128 minutes