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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Epic > Action > Sword Of War (2009/Lionsgate DVD)

Sword Of War (2009/Lionsgate DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Movie: B+



Anyone craving a good dose of historical movie-making need look no further than Renzo Martinelli’s Sword of War, a 2009 production featuring Rutger Hauer in the role of Barbarossa, the embattled Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  Set in the period around 1169 A.D., this film focuses on Barbarossa’s brutal campaign to put down the insurrection of the Italian city-states.  History tells us that Milan and others were eventually restored to freedom, but oh what bloody and twisted path the film’s characters must travel to get there!


Lavishly shot, Mr. Martinelli ably fills both the roles of script writer and director, and Massimo Cantini Parrini’s gorgeous and gritty costume work transports the viewer directly back to the muck and mire of Lombardy circa 1169.  Mr. Hauer’s performance as the sometimes tortured and superstitious Barbarossa is top notch, while Cécile Cassel offers excellent support as his young but willful queen, Beatrice of Burgundy.  Although many other fine Italian actors give great performances in this epic, longtime American actor F. Murray Abraham almost steals the show as the villainous Siniscalco Barozzi, a man of dark appetites willing to switch sides to get what he wants.


Principally an Italian production, there are minor issues with the dubbing of the English dialogue, but these do not detract much from the overall high quality of the product.  The widescreen presentation allows director Martinelli to take full advantage of his massive battle scenes, and a bit of cleverly placed CGI helps to maintain the illusion of many men (and a few women!) fighting and dying on a Medieval battlefield. 


Viewers should take caution, as some of the actions scenes are quite brutal, as befits the period the film is set in.   Sword of War will scratch the itch of any action nut who also enjoys period films, and there is enough intrigue, double-dealing, and crafty dialogue to satisfy those viewers not as interested in the action.



-   Scott Pyle


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