The gods are hungry.
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It was with an exhausted sense of duty that I signed up for this review. See, I can’t get enough of Dark Ages-era sword and sandal tomfoolery. It takes a lot for a movie/show set in these times and featuring linebackers hacking away at each other with broadswords to bore me. It just so happened one of those released recently: Hammer of the Gods. This 2013 warrior saga managed to make watching blood-soaked steel murder laborious.
Now comes the spiritual successor, Sword of Vengeance hatched from the same writer who penned Hammer. Hence my half-hearted embrace. But hope springs eternal, especially if that hope is crimson-tinged and manifested as an arterial spray.
Sword of Vengeance concerns itself with a gentleman named Borgia (Stanley Weber), a brawling Norman who was released from slavery and embarks on one simple mission: to take out the diabolical Earl who killed his father.
On the way to fulfill his vendetta he runs into the lovely, enigmatic Annabelle (Annabelle Wallis), one of a band of rogue farmers turned soldiers, who have banded together and geared up to counter-attack the Earl themselves. It’s a battle that’s long on odds, but if these plucky overachievers have any shot, they’ll need the sword-craft and killer coiffure of Borgia.
On paper, that sounds pretty good, right? The simplest of plots, but if you’re going to for bad-ass Northman-on-Northman warfare, there is more than enough skeletal support there to hang on some solid action sequences. And, rest assured, director Jim Weedon does give it a decent shot.
But the DNA of Hammer of the Gods squirts through, subverting what should be no-nonsense, visceral hand-to-hand thrills and raising style over (hacking and whacking) substance. Sword of Vengeance is a dark, stark, stylized affair. It feels superficial, almost like a video game, but it holds back, resisting the flying leap into the deep end where beasts like 300 dwell.
As a result, Sword of Vengeance is trapped somewhere in between, a sort of purgatory for stylish action pictures, and it leads to a fractured experience. The slow-motion, the quick cuts, the over-saturated color tones–it all drains a sense of realism. Which would be totally fine if the action beats rose to the outrageous level that these kinds of trade-offs would demand.
Alas, what we have here is a just a series of standard-issue encounters. Even the big finale, where Borgia and crew make a run on the battlements lacks any kind of sizzle. I’m only a few days removed from the viewing and am I having trouble conjuring up even one memorable action beat. That can’t happen with a movie titled Sword of Vengeance.
Well Go USA serves up, as always, a solid performer on Blu. The surreal atmosphere looks slick (almost synthetic actually) in its 2.40:1, 1080p glory and the hard-hitting DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track delivers the fight sounds with zest. Extras include interview with the filmmakers and a making-of featurette.