Eye For Film >> Movies >> Sword Of Vengeance (2015) Film Review
Sword Of Vengeance
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A few years ago a theory developed among historians that due to an eruption of Vesuvius the Dark Ages were, in fact, literally dark, the sun hidden behind a worldwide blanket of dust. Nobody seems to have taken this theory to heart quite so eagerly as filmmakers, and Sword Of Vengeance (which was actually filmed in Serbia, in the winter, and then had its colour palette dialled right down) looks as if it's set next door to Vesuvius the day after the eruption happened. Everything is darkness and grime, the sky a miserable grey, the land hard and unyielding. It's not at all clear where food comes from or why anyone thinks this land is worth fighting over - but fight they do, because by this point it's also about revenge.
Stanley Weber is Shadow Walker (really), a usurped prince who now stalks the land picking fights with soldiers and vaguely plotting to bring down the man who killed his father. Meanwhile, this man's sons are out marauding and generally noising up the local populace; given by the almost total absence of women and children, they've done a pretty good job of wiping them out already. An exception is Anna (Annabelle Wallis), a widow who is tired of being pushed around. When she faces rape at the hands of her enemies, something snaps inside Shadow and he finds himself fighting for somebody else for the first time in years. In doing so, he wins an ally who in turn saves his life and unites him with a band of rebels looking for a leader. The two develop what seems like a genuine soldierly bond - but his loyalty to her doesn't guarantee he'll take the least precaution wen it comes to other people's lives.
Like many a wandering warrior before him, Shadow says little; he speaks through his actions, the poetry in his sword. Although the battles, overall, are somewhat uneven in terms of style, Weber's work is carefully choreographed and will please fans of fighting films even if it does sometimes take liberties with physics. This is important because there really isn't much else in the film at all. The fight scenes are interspersed with moody looks, muttered exchanges and lingering panoramic views across empty landscapes, heavily scored in video game style when ambient sound might have made them a lot creepier. The music tells us to be awed but the film hasn't earned it. There's a general over-reliance on over-familiar set pieces which again creates the feeling that we are playing a game rather than watching a film, and the lack of significant characterisation makes it difficult to get excited about the action at anything beyond the aesthetic level.
The consequence of this is that, despite all the action and the relatively short running time, we seem to spend large portions of the film waiting for something to happen. The various characters seem to have to lives beyond their function in the plot, but somehow find the opportunity to do their eyeliner, style their hair and make masks, which seem to be the in thing in horror/survival films in 2015. Wallis tries hard to bring some personality to her role but risks unbalancing the film as a result. The most noticeable thing about her is her golden hair which, together with the red spurting blood of her enemies, brings a welcome burst of volcanic colour to a film that never succeeds in catching fire.Reviewed on: 24 May 2015