Roger Ebert, Eat Your Heart Out

I watched the movie “Ironclad” last night on Netflix.  I have an affinity for English actors in period pieces, – especially with a martial theme – whether they are in togas or redcoats.  “Ironclad” purports to be a depiction of what took place after King John signed the Magna Carta.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t go quietly into retirement, but immediately put into action plans to take revenge on the nobles who forced him to sign the document at Runnymede in 1215.

The cast is outstanding, with two of my favorite actors, Brian Cox and Paul Giamatti.  Giamatti seems like an odd choice in context of the rest of the cast, but he makes a convincing uber-weasel as King John.  James Purefoy – so good as Marc Antony in “Rome” – is excellent if a bit monochromatic playing a Knight Templar.  But as earnestly as it plays, “Ironclad” is hard for me to take seriously in that the violence is continually reminiscent of the Black Knight scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”: limbs being lopped off, heads being split like melons, and the like.  In one scene one of the good guys lops off a bad guy’s arm, and proceeds to beat another baddie senseless with the severed limb.  That’s funny, I don’t care who you are.  But what makes this movie comedy gold for me is it contains the three great clichés of medieval period pieces: the handling of money, the lack of good shower facilities, and the oppressiveness of the medieval Catholic Church.

Comedian Louis C.K. does a hilarious riff on the way money was handled in times past, and “Ironclad” doesn’t let us down in that vein, in that people just toss money at each other, usually in little leather pouches.  There’s never any counting of the money, or giving change or receipts.  Usually the recipient of the jingling leather pouch just takes it and expresses intense gratitude (“Oh thank you my lord – thank you!”).  In this case after a night spent with whore, the man does – after hitting her in the chest with the pouch – take it back and give her 3 coins, and she doesn’t express intense gratitude.

About half-way through this movie, like me you be muttering to yourself “Please, for the sweet love of God, somebody grab a bar of Lifebuoy and go take a shower!  Go ahead and shave while you are at it.”  James Purefoy especially you just want to bring him to your house and explain to him the wonders of the modern bathroom and toiletries, and offer to do his laundry while he’s soaking in the tub.  Rashes had to be a big issue in the Middle Ages.  The only people who seem acquainted with personal hygiene are the nobles.

The only entities that take more of a beating in movies than the Catholic Church are “big corporations”.  In this movie the Pope is portrayed as a friend of King John and an enemy of the Magna Carta.  I came away smirking, but after doing some research I can see a basis for that thesis.  King John was oppressing the Church in England in his obsessive lust for revenues – his tax collectors grabbing abbots by the ankles and shaking them upside down for their lunch money – and he got excommunicated by Innocent III.  In the early 13th century the Church was a powerful political force – the only Christian game there was – and John quickly came to heel.  Pope Innocent III supposedly did not oppose the Magna Carta because of its content, but because it was extracted by force.  And the Magna Carta is a somewhat overrated document, more a declaration of noble rights than rights of the common man – but certainly important as a forerunner of later constitutional documents.  A very glaring historical inaccuracy is that King John’s big carrot he keeps dangling in front of the leader of his Danish mercenaries is that if they help John get his kingdom back, the Pope will keep Catholic missionaries out of Denmark so they can continue to be Druids or Wombats or whatever they are without interference.  The truth is that Denmark was Christianized by the early 13th century.  Maybe granting the Danes permanent and full Hickory Farms franchise rights in England (Dak hams would have sold like crazy) would have been more historically accurate.

All in all, it’s a worthwhile rental, if not a “date movie”.   Roast a leg of mutton, pop open a Strongbow, and watch “Ironclad” with all your rowdy mates.  Just shower meticulously with lots of hot water and generous use of your loofah first.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: