Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Flesh + Blood (1985)

So we had that bit of fantasy film explosion in the 1980s. Movies like Excalibur and Beastmaster were exciting folks and getting them interested in seeing more sword and sorcery adventures. Well director Paul Verhoeven felt that those movies were missing out on the real fun elements of the middle ages: bloody impulsive violence, raping, pillaging and plague. He decided to rectify that with a movie that put the middle ages into perspective, and no this isn’t like something you’d see at a ren faire. No, it is a Paul Verhoeven film, and that should tell you just what you are in for.

Martin (Rutger Hauer) leads a merry band of mercenaries who loves nothing more than killing, looting, and raping. They are guided by the experienced wit of Hawkwood (Jack Thompson), and are hired by the Lord Arnolfini (Fernando Hilbeck) to reclaim his walled town. After Martin and his band achieve victory Arnolfini decides he doesn’t want to pay Martin and is group for their hard work.  He uses Hawkwood to turn the tables on Martin and the group leaves the battle without a coin or a wench.

Meanwhile, Steven (Tom Burlinson), son of the Lord is about to meet his betrothed, Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Steven is a clever young man who fancies himself the next Divinci when it comes to mechanics and construction. But he is not a fighter. So when Agnes is kidnapped by Martin and his crew, Steven must go to Hawkwood for aid. While they come up with a plan and attempt to hunt Martin down, the mercenaries have their way with Agnes. But she uses her charms and wits to get into their good graces. Has Agnes fallen for her rough and ready bad boy, or is she secretly waiting for Steven to save her? The fate of all will be told in the meeting of Flesh + Blood. Ronald Lacey, Brion James and Bruno Kirby round out the cast.

Good Points:
  • Some impressive medieval production design and visuals
  • The action set pieces are well filmed and memorable
  • A bold and explosive musical score by Basil Poledouris

Bad Points:
  • So heavy on the gore and sex that you could call it exploitative
  • American accents in medieval European film may distract some viewers
  • Those looking for some sorcery with the sword will be disappointed

Verhoeven makes an in your face aggressive and exploitative historical adventure film. Martin and his crew are real mercenaries, and brutes on top of it. But the nobles are just as bad with the horrible way they treat just about everyone including their own family. Not a likable character in the bunch, but the film moves at a great pace with lots of energy. While going for a more realistic view of the late middle ages, it also manages to comment on the power of religious faith (and how it can be abused) and the futility of striving against the brutality of humans. A solid film if you have the stomach for it.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 5
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. I never heard of this one, or if I did it didn't register. In films I tolerate sorcery more than seek it, so this might work for me. Thanks for the heads up. Accents can can one's attention sometimes. In the silly but enjoyable "The Lost World" TV series in the early 2000s it somehow struck me as amusing that lizard people on a plateau in Brazil not only spoke English but with an Australian accent.

    1. Make that "can catch." One would expect the "can can" to draw attention.

    2. You know, I never considered what kind of accents lizard people would have. But Australian did not pop into my head. Living in Brazil, maybe Portuguese or Spanish?

  2. Re: The stomach for it. I always felt that way about Verhoeven's films. They sort of struck me with mixed feelings. Some of them I felt went a bit too far over the top with the violence/gore: Total Recall, Starship Troopers. But overall for action films he did achieve them being entertaining, or creating a roller coaster thrill aspect to them.

    The Beastmaster is a fun film, I came to it late, but thought it was one of the better fantasy films of the era. The Clan of the Cave Bear I also saw many years after its release, but I think it's another well made fantasy film.

    1. Yeah, Verhoeven is in typical form here. The violence is really in your face, and the rape scenes got a little too much. I will say that he does paint a more accurate version of these lawless types. I also appreciated how he had Agnes use her sexuality to manipulate the men around her. An interesting film for sure, but not everyone's cup of tea.

      "Beastmaster" used to be a real favorite of mine. I haven't seen it in years. Should check it out again.

  3. Whoa, need to see this as soon as possible, I've always enjoyed Veerhoeven's particular brand of over the top sex and violence. The poster is kind of bland though.

    1. Yeah the poster doesn't do it justice, that's for sure. I think you'll really like this one Francisco. It was Veerhoeven's first Hollywood film (if I'm remembering correctly), and he said later that it was a difficult production to execute. You can see that a little in some places. But all in all, it is a rough and ready film. Plenty of clever action scenes and typical Veerhoeven humor.