After victory at The Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror sent his army to the North of England to carry out a campaign of furious destruction. It was known as the Harrowing of the North. After years of slavery, a Norman Prince returns to the lost lands to seek revenge on his father's murderer; his uncle, the ruthless Earl Durant. He gains the trust of a band of exiled farmers and leads them into battle against the Earl, exploiting them in his inexorable quest for revenge. Can there be any redemption for his deep rooted rage and hatred or has he lost his soul to vengeance?
How longer must the Game of Thrones train continue to warrant these cheap sword-and-sandal productions? I ask as they are starting to get ridiculous with yet another instantly forgettable movie such as Sword of Vengeance. Which, by the way, is also the name of a brilliant Lone Wolf and Cub movie. I have such an affinity for the Lone Wolf and Cub movie franchise that it pains me to acknowledge that this historic epic bears some small similarities in the protagonist, his tale and even his haircut. The good news is that there’s plenty of problems with this picture to avoid any confusion or relation between the two.
Stanley Weber plays the stock wanderer referred to by the cliche title of Shadow Walker. Bound by honor and revenge, he walks the Earth in a haircut that seems less suited for Scotland and more for Japan. The movie opens with him being confronted by some armored men on horses demanding a toll. When they threaten the Walker, he bolts up to slit some throats and lop off limbs - all featured in overblown and overly extended sequences. Before killing the last man, he spouts the one-liner “consider this payment in full” before slicing the bad guy open. And this is when the disappointment sets in realizing that this will be the entire film.
There is no deeper character development. All scenes will focus around Shadow Walker in some way and all other characters are to be stock victims or baddies. There will not be any scenes of beautifully choreographed action or engaging cinematography. Every shot is drowned in garish tones of gray and brown. Every fight is filmed with enough slow-motion to make Zack Snyder blush. Every line of dialogue is a snooze with actors struggling to stay as awake as the audience. There is practically zero reason to be invested in the standard plot of Walker defending a village from the evil men with swords and horses. What kingdom is assaulting which people and which exact period does the movie take place? It doesn’t matter - none of this is even the least bit accurate to the most minimal of historic dressing.
The story for Sword of Vengeance was by Matthew Reed who previously wrote Hammer of the Gods. He has not learned much in the short amount of time between pictures as he delivers yet another story about a lone warrior with the exact same style and color palette. Seriously, what is with these dark fantasies desiring to make everything look as brown and gray as possible? Does color have to be slaughtered as well? It’s especially disheartening when you see the poster bursting with popping red and gold, only to be let down by a muddy and bland production. First-time director Jim Weedon appears to play it safe as his first action picture that mimics many more which followed the same formula.
Sword of Vengeance is devoid of all color, substance and fun. What you’re left with is another bleak action period piece that features more swords and slashings than story or character. And when the film can’t even deliver on the excitement of those promised elements, what is left? If I had to say one good thing about the film it’s that the soundtrack has some promise. Set against the blood-red credits, it holds promise for a much more stylish action picture. I looked forward to the end credits just to see some more of that color set against music. It was certainly much more pleasing to the eye and far more engaging than anything that was shot in this movie - mostly shot in slow motion to pad out its cheap story to a modicum 87 minutes. And those were probably the longest 87 minutes of my life that was mostly a blur of 300, Game of Thrones and every single direct-to-video sword-and-sandal production in the past decade.