Iron Lord (Russian: Yaroslav. Tysyachu let nazad), 2010.
Directed by Dmitri Korobkin.
Starring Aleksandr Ivashkevich, Svetlana Chuikina, Aleksey Kravchenko, Viktor Verzhbitskiy and Valeriy Zolotukhin.
The Russian Prince Yaroslav struggles to maintain order in his kingdoms as barbarian hordes and slave-traders carve their way from one settlement to the next, threatening his power over the region.
The low-budget straight-to-DVD market has faced a bit of an upheaval lately, with the typical zombie / vampire tosh facing a new challenge from the ‘bloody historical epic’ as distributors look to cash in on the release of high-profile titles such as Ironclad and The Eagle. Now we can add another to the growing list – see Henry of Navarre, Barbarossa: Siege Lord, Knight Templar etc. – with the arrival of Iron Lord, a Russian effort by the name of Yaroslav. Tysyachu let nazad, which I’m pretty sure means something else entirely.
In 11th century Russia, the warlord Yaroslav, son of the Grand Prince Valdimir, travels the lawless Rostov region in the North of Kiev, gathering tribute for his father and spreading the world of God. Stumbling upon ransacked village after ransacked village, Yaroslav and his men – including the Viking warrior-cum-mercenary Harald – set out to repel the bandits but in order to do so, the Prince must first unite his people, many of whom have suffered years of hardship under his father’s rule.
Now, although it’s marketed at the same audience as Ironclad (even going so far as to replicate the “from the studio that brought you…” blurb on its cover), Iron Lord isn’t your usual ‘bloody historical epic’. In fact, there’s more blood on the DVD cover of Iron Lord than the film itself, and its battle scenes are probably best described as skirmishes. That’s not to say it’s all bad as the story itself is fairly interesting, although I was struggling to buy Aleksandr Ivashkevich as Yaroslav. Dressed in his armour, he kept reminding me of Graham Chapman in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and when he wore robes I couldn’t shake the image of Graham Chapman in Life of Brian. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t find him all too convincing in an otherwise acceptable cast.
Ivashkevich aside, the main problem with Iron Lord is that we spend the entire duration of the film building to a showdown between Yaroslav’s ‘army’ and the barbarians, only for the bad guys to up sticks and retreat before things really get underway. We do get to close on a fight between Yaroslav and the Viking Harald, which went some way to salvaging things, although it was a little clunky (which I suppose in fairness is likely to be the case when you’re fighting with giant broadswords). However, with Harald dressed all in black, I kept expecting
Arthur Yaroslav to chop him limb from limb and I felt a little let down when it didn’t happen.
For a low-budget movie, Iron Lord is put together well and looks impressive on occasion, with some decent CGI effects and inventive camera techniques. Apart from the scope of the few battle scenes, the only time that the budget really hampers the film is during Yaroslav’s rousing speech to his people, with a shortage of extras making it seem like only a handful of subjects bothered to turn up. It’s a shame that the final big battle never gets going, as Iron Lord would certainly have benefited immensely from a bit more action. If that’s what you’re after then I’d perhaps look the other way, but fans of the genre may want to pick this up when it hits the bargain bin.