From the creator of 'Hammer of the Gods', starring Stanley Weber (Borgia) and Annabelle Wallis (Annabelle), the subjects of a ruthless tyrant's oppression discover an unlikely freedom fighter whose code of honor demands bloody retribution. In 1066, following the brutal genocide ordered by William the Conqueror in order to control the unrelenting Rebels of the North, it's a world of dark times and dark deeds. After years of slavery, a Norman Prince (Weber) returns to the lost lands to seek revenge on his father's murderer by leading a band of farmers in bloody retribution. Rounding out the notable cast are Ed Skrein ("Game of Thrones"), Dave Legeno (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and Karel Roden (The Bourne Supremacy).
Take equal parts of '300' and 'Kingdom of Heaven' and shove them in your blender. Press the frappé button and let it sit that way for just under 90 minutes. When you poor the mixture out you should have something of the same color and consistency as 'Sword of Vengeance.'
It wasn't a fun time to live in England during the great and terrible Harrowing if you were a Saxon. In 1066 William The Conqueror and his armies rampaged across England killing anyone and everyone that didn't pay tribute, pledge loyalty, or were killed for the coins in their pocket. William's right hand evil-doer Earl Durant (Karel Roden) has been allowed to lay waste to anything and everything he sees. Helping him in his hellish quest are his two sons Romain (Edward Akrout) and Artus (Gianni Giardinelli) who plunder the countryside. Their campaign for carnage would be swift and sure if it wasn't for the mysterious Shadow Walker (Stanley Weber) - no I'm not making that name up, that's what he's called. Shadow Walker is particularly adept at unleashing his own brand of furious vengeance as he dispatches Durant's mindless minions left and right.
After slaughtering a few of Durant's men, Shadow Walker joins forces with a beautiful local named Anna (Annabelle Wallis). She has secrets of her own as she is an underground leader of a small army of amateur Saxon warriors. Given their lack of training and equipment and their recent devastation at the hands of Durant's professional soldiers, Anna and her troops desperately need a hero. A warrior. A Man who will stand up to Durant, his squabbling sons and lead the free people to victory. They of course get Shadow Walker.
I don't mean to sound snarky in that summation - well maybe I do - but after watching this movie for 87 minutes of my life, it's a fair response to the ridiculousness I just witnessed. Using only a cursory understanding of historical events, the film makers evidently thought bloody gore and digital effects would mask any plot contrivances or character shortcomings. This movie lis like trying to eat soup with swiss cheese for all the sense it makes moment to moment. In addition to the script issues which are numerous because it's anyone's guess what's happening at any given time - the movie tries to be ultra stylish. Framing continuity is right out the window. Shot to shot it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the good guys from the bad and their spacial relationship to each other.
Performances are also just absolutely bizarre. Karel Roden does his best to try and be menacing without sounding goofy, but the man can only do so much with the material he's given. Stanley Weber's Shadow Walker could be a cool character if this was some kind of medieval set video game - but as a movie character he's hollow and actually rather bland. Sure he's good with a sword and has a particular knack for cutting off hands but that hardly makes him a compelling hero - let alone a character you want to see on screen. Annabelle Wallis does her best, but she's largely there for window dressing for how much depth her character is given.
I don't mean this review to sound like an evisceration, it's just hard to say much of anything positive about the movie that isn't unintentionally funny or entertaining. To be honest I was actually very entertained, but in this film's total and complete badness. 'Sword of Vengeance' just takes itself so seriously it's hard not to giggle when a character loses and eyeball by choice. Also not helping matters is the need for this movie to have desaturated colors that are inconsistent from shot to shot - but you know it's fine because it looks cool. That seems to be the entire movie's purpose: to look cool.
The action beats are fun, especially the opening fight sequence between Shadow Walker and a couple of mounted soldiers - but cool filming and action don't make a movie. They help, but they're a flimsy foundation to build on. I was really getting into the final big battle for a few moments but then the camera kept breaking the 180 rule so it became increasingly more difficult to figure out who was charging whom with swords drawn and battle axes as their boots kick up copious amounts of mud and grit onto the screen. I can really only recommend this to people who watch bad movies on purpose. I encourage group watching because it's a tough experience to riff a movie when no one else is watching.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Sword of Vengeance' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Well Go USA and pressed on a BD25 disc. Housed in a standard case with identical cover art on the slip cover, the disc plays through a slew of trailers for other Well Go USA releases before arriving to the main menu.
"Beautifully ugly" would probably be the best way to describe 'Sword of Vengeance.' On one hand, detail levels are strikingly beautiful, but then on the other hand the inconsistent color grating can make things appear near black and white or paled to a point that colors are so subdued they're unnoticeable. This sort of artistic approach wouldn't be a problem if it was consistent. On this Blu-ray, colors appear to shift quite a bit. In one shot blood can appear deep crimson, almost muddy then a dark grey the next shot and then rusty orange the next shot. It's rather frustrating. Black levels for the most part are pretty good allowing for some nice three dimensional depth, but then things can get all weird and contrasty killing the depth. Darker scenes have a fair bit of crush with some banding here and there knocking the overall score of this movie down. A weird movie gets a weird transfer so I guess it fits.
'Sword of Vengeance' gets a big kick out its DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. Dialogue is pretty infrequent so much of the sound mix is dominated by battle sound effects, cries of pain, and other ambient sound effects. When there is dialogue thankfully everything comes without crystal clarity as it feels like a lot of effort went into the mix to keep it even. Imaging gets a nice little workout as sound effects and music make great use of the surround channels and help keep things consistent. All around this is a fantastic track that does a better job of keeping the movie interesting than the actual story does.
Behind The Scenes: (HD 6:45) More of a "behind the scene" - its some on set footage that shows there was once color to be photographed. It's hard to enjoy as there was a lot of wind hitting the mic.
Director Jim Weedon (HD 15:44) - Its actually an interesting interview where the director explains a lot of what attracted him to the project and the production.
Producers Rupert Preston & Huberta Von Liel (HD 8:03) - Similar to the director interview, covers a lot of the same material while explaining different motivations.
Trailer: (HD 1:35) Trailer is basically the movie inside of 90 seconds. Actually looks like a good movie when you watch the preview!
'Sword of Vengeance' is another one of those movies that begs you to keep your brain checked at the door and just go with it. If you think too hard, you'll not only have a tough time figuring out what's going on, but also why you're still watching the movie. Granted, it is fun, but I think the vast majority of the fun I had was at the movie's expense, rather than genuine quality. With only a few extras, spotty video, and a solid audio track I can really only suggest this to the curious as a rental. If you have zero interest in this movie, there really isn't anything here to recommend very highly.