I's 1190, time of the Third Holy War, as we enter the tale of Crusade of Vengeance; aka, Warrior Angels (2002). Elizabeth of Cook (Joanna Pacula), a valiant veteran of the Crusades, returns from the Holy Land having survived great bodily injuries.
She finds that while she was away, regional warlords terrorized Europe & her own father was slain. Grekkor (Rutger Hauer) is a cruel warlord who has taken Elizabeth's young son Peter (Sander Kolosov).
The moment will come when Peter has to choose between his mother & the warlord who has been like his father for a year, & what a mighty father to impress the impressionable. He will make his choice poorly, but predictably.
Arnold Vasso plays Luke, a drunken wellkeeper who happens also & unexpectedly to be a great warrior of enormous physicality. He grew up orphaned, the son of no land. Luke becomes the best character in the film, as Vasso makes him seem real, in a way most of the actors couldn't do. He gets a decent enough plotline with his own leading lady, Rachel (Nina Young).
Elizabeth is waylaid by a robber but saved by a woman archer called Hunter (Molly Culver). She & Elizabeth travel on together, encountering the gypsy witch Sybil (Rimante Valiukaite), whose family Grekkor slaughtered. Also joining their minimal band is the harlot Eve (Charlotte Avery, who manages to invest her character with humor).
The plan of this group of tough gals, to attack the warlord on their own, is so moronic & ill considered that the story at this point falls all to pieces.
As was all too predictible, Elizabeth is no match for Grekkor, since she's failed to consider even the slightest rudiments of strategy.
Her nearness to death regains her son's loyalty, which in turn gives her the improbable strength to strike the fatal blow that saves the hour.
A brutal, seriously intended hero tale, spoilt by poor art direction & workmanlike cinematography, we have to at least feel some gratitude that the idea of the female Crusader is treated with the respect its historical validity does contain.
It's shocking how few people know it in our age of the poorly educated, but medieval Europe was rife with women warriors both defending & taking castles, & nothing at all fanciful in basing movie heroines on such historical figures as Mathilda of Tuscany who fought actively in support of the papacy; or "Empress Maud" who rampaged across England for nine years of vicious battles & sieges; or Marguerite de Provence, who became a Crusader in the Holy Land.
They are among the better known of hundreds of similarly aggressive women, so it shouldn't be so damned hard for filmmakers to capture one or two factualities that convince.
Although generally hoky in story content & middling in its acting, the great thing is that male & female figures of action are treated as equals. Woman warriors, no less than men, dress as for actual battle, not for comic book T & A effect.
Also in the film's favor are convincing costuming for everyone, including the horses, & a countryside that looks totally of the era intended, with Lithuana standing in for medieval England.
In its unsophisticated manner, Crusade of Vengeance is fairly entertaining, especially if compared to the usual swordswomen or amazon films dished out over the years. And yet, it's a disappointment that in a story about women only the male actors (Vasso & Hauer) can dominate the screen.
The filmmakers' desire to treat the subject of heroic women seriously was wholly undermined by the lack of a story worth telling, no fight choreography of merit, & actresses who can't quite pull off their roles -- ingredients that were the minimum required if even foolish fun was to be achieved.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl