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DVD Review: ‘Iron Lord’

★★☆☆☆

Dmitri Korobkin’s Iron Lord (2010) – or Yaroslav. Tysyachu let nazad in its native Russian – is just one of many recent historical epics to have been released into an extremely saturated, straight-to-DVD market this year, and aside from some impressive camerawork, crisp editing, and the accompaniment of a well plotted soundscape, Iron Lord fails to deliver on its promise of high octane action.

In the midst of Russia during the year 1010, Russian Prince Yaroslav (Aleksandr Ivashkevich) rules the kingdoms to the North of Kiev with an iron fist, conquering new lands and gathering taxes for his father, Grand Prince Vladimir. However, keeping rule during such bloody times is a constant battle as hordes of Barbarians ransack local settlements to enslave those fit for sale. Yaroslav faces the unenviable mission of restoring peace to the region in an attempt to ultimately reinforce his power over it.

The opening of Iron Lord is accompanied by a confusing prologue that sets in motion an overly complicated plot which does nothing but establish unnecessary confusion. Whether this is due to a poor translation from Russian to English or the result of defective writing, this introduction fails to serve its purpose and actually obscures the film’s story.

As if to add to the needless uncertainty brought about by the film’s complicated start, a number of insignificant characters are utilised as nothing more than tools for propelling its narrative. The film’s central figures are actually well developed and are atypical of this genre, having all of the traits consistent with the customary princes, tribesman and warlords of it, and as a result there really is no need for the constant introduction of random characters to help explain events.

To establish entertaining and exciting scenes of action, the low-budget nature of the film has placed the emphasis on intricate camera work and precision editing, and in fairness to the filmmakers this is one of its saving graces. The clever choreography combined with well-timed editing bestows a sense of pace and intensity upon the film’s numerous scenes of battle, making Iron Lord a fantastic example of how exciting traditional filmmaking can still be in this age of hi-tech production.

To reinforce the great work of its post-production team, Iron Lord offers a fantastic soundscape that comprises extremely well applied digital and Foley effects that really compliment what unfolds on screen, giving the film the power it lacks in other places as a result of its muddled plot.

Korobkin had utilised his talented team of choreographers and technicians more effectively, and had employed a much more straightforward narrative, Iron Lord may have been a far more enjoyable experience. Instead, he opted to confuse matters by introducing innumerable insignificant characters, and an abundance of poorly scripted dialogue, smothered in awkwardly presented themes of religion.

It’s a real shame that Iron Lord fails in such a big way as its surprisingly talented cast, supported by the solid work of its gifted technical team, would have authenticated its story effectively without the need for a series of integral pitfalls as previously discussed.

Russell Cook