Set in the aftermath of William the Conqueror’s infamous invasion into the British Isles in 1066, it’s one of the tyrant’s henchmen Durant (Karel Roden) spreading fear amongst the natives. The Saxons need some inspiration, somebody to rise up against the oppressive reign, and that man is the elusive stranger and freedom fighter, the Shadow Walker (Stanley Weber). Having been cast away, he’s now back seeking revenge – and though preparing to go head to head with the nefarious antagonists – it’s the Saxons, those competing on his side, who initially express their apprehension – but when he embarks in a passionate affair with the authoritative Anna (Annabelle Wallis), he could well convince them of his allegiances and proceed to rebel – together.
With little by way of character development, Sword of Vengeance follows a somewhat tedious and repetitive formula. Lots of people looking moody standing around in the mud, and then a fighting scene, and then they look moody again, then a fighting scene. Thankfully, Weedon is seemingly aware of the limitations of sustaining such a narrative structure, and this picture doesn’t surpass the 90 minute mark, and is all the better for it. It’s lacking in any moments of light relief however, as a feature that’s too stony-faced for its own good. Of course that’s not to suggest this picture should go full on farce, or be overtly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s missing any sense of frivolity to break up the action sequences. It’s where Game of Thrones triumphs so well, in balancing both the comedy with the pathos and the intense, action sequences. Comparing the two may seem lazy, but when a production is clinging on the coattails of such a successful television show, comparisons do become rather inevitable, sadly.
Where Weedon does succeed, however, in within the gratifying and indelible aesthetic experience, as a stylistic piece that seems to have been influenced by classic, samurai films. It’s contrived in parts, but ultimately absorbing. It’s rare this be the case for a film of such a modest sized budget, as typically that’s where features fall short, without the funds to create a whole landscape for the audience to immerse themselves in. However the hackneyed narrative hasn’t got the same excuse, as you don’t need a lot of money to come up with an original idea – just a vivid and adventurous imagination. So it’s certainly frustrating to see the visuals work so well, and yet not have the captivating story to back it up.