A sub-par HD release takes all the fun out of this blood-soaked medieval action flick

Ironclad is rather nicely summed up by its director as being ‘best described as a medieval Magnificent Seven or a medieval Seven Samurai'. A fictionalised retelling of the siege of Rochester Castle by King John’s forces in 1215, the film stars Paul Giamatti as the regal despot, with James Purefoy’s Templar knight and Baron Cox’s baron leading a rag-tag group of warriors holding the castle against him. It’s very silly stuff, but filmed with so much gusto and lashings of gore that it’s hard not to get caught up in the action.

Picture: While this Blu-ray’s AVC 1.78:1 1080p encode is technically sound – offering up good detailing (especially in close-ups of the cast’s grizzled faces) and accurate colour reproduction – Warner Home Video has really dropped in the ball when it comes to framing.

Originally composed at 2.35:1, the Blu-ray release serves up an obvious 1.78:1 crop of the film that excises large amounts of picture information from either side of the screen. Perhaps the most obvious example of how ruinous this is to the composition of the film comes in Chapter 6, when our horse-riding heroes line up on the top of a hill looking down on Rochester Castle. It should be a sort of 'medieval Magnificent Seven' moment, but thanks to the footage snipped from either side of the shot, it’s more of a 'Magnificent Five' moment, with glimpses of the other two horses edging into shot every now and again.
Picture rating: 2/5

Audio: If there’s one bit of good news about this release, it’s that the disc’s presentation problems don’t extend as far as the Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack. Indeed, it’s a delightfully atmospheric mix that hits plenty of invigorating highs when the siege begins. The barrage of arrows and rocks flying through the sky provide plenty of opportunities for panning effects across the entire soundstage. My only real quibble is that the bass simply isn’t potent enough for my taste – surely the toppling of a tower, as seen in Chapter 22, should have a bit more impact that it does here.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: The lack of care taken with this release extended to the disc’s sole bonus feature. Interviews with the Cast and Crew is a 35min reel of what must surely be raw EPK material waiting to be edited into promotional featurettes. Why else would the third on-screen ‘question’ be 'Introductions by Director and Producers', which simply consists of short clips of director Jonathan English and producers Andrew Curtis and Rick Benattar stating their names and roles on the film? There’s absolutely nothing in the way of insight into the production, with the bland questioning running along the lines of ‘What is the film about?’, ‘What character do you play in the film?’ and ‘What attracted you to the part?’
Extras rating: 1/5

We say: This fun action flick is done a serious disservice by a compromised hi-def package.

Warner Home Video, All-region BD, £20 approx, On sale now