In 12th Century England, with most of the nation's best warriors and nobles fighting in the Crusades, local Lords have taken the opportunity to seize control. Noblewoman Elizabeth returns home after fighting valiantly in the Holy Land to find her son has been taken by Grekkor (Rutger Hauer) and his fate is unknown. She sets out to find him and picks up some other travellers along the way to help her when local townspeople seem unwilling to help. The boy is being raised by Grekkor as his own with the mysterious Luke (Arnold Vosloo) as his guardian.
Written by director Byron W. Thompson, Crusade of Vengeance is an odd little production that always feels more like an aborted television pilot than an attempt to create an engaging stand-alone film. The storyline is straight forward enough and could easily work in any period from Greek legend to the Wild West, it has a very traditional feel with its black and white approach - good leading characters, evil Lord, bad guys turning good and MacGuffin (in this case the son) whom they want to recover - only the all female line-up provides some distinction but aside from adding a few incredulous reactions to their appearance, it never really affects the plot and the huntress and gypsy characters could easily have been played by men. No background or development are provided for most of the characters - the women in particular seem happy to join Elizabeth's group at a moments notice.
The traditional storyline gives the film for the most part a family friendly feel and the combat scenes are blood-free and PG rateable, making the inclusion of a quite vivid sexual assault scene (a nameless character in Grekkor's camp is seen striping and roughly groping a screaming topless woman for a full minute) very surprising and it sits awkwardly with the rest of the film, like a half-assed post-production attempt to appeal to a more mature audience. Pacing is pretty slow (the project could quite easily have been trimmed into a sixty minute television slot) and builds to a pretty standard climax with a rather cheesy ending, although it does wrap up the storyline and the death of one of the established characters in the climax avoids this completely feeling like an open-ended pilot show.
The 1990s television feel continues into the production - with a low budget shot-on-video look, cheesy (although fortunately limited) effects and an insistence on tight close-ups combined with a generic synthesised soundtrack. Despite its British setting, the location shooting took place in Lithuanian pine forests, which look completely inappropriate for what is presumably supposed to be rural England (although the use of bizarre, made-up place names does disguise the intended location).
One of the most popular modern cult film actors, Rutger Hauer is probably the highlight of the film and seems to be enjoying his part as the evil Grekkor (an odd name for an English Lord), he is joined by another familiar face in Arnold Vosloo (probably best known as the eponymous Mummy (1999) in the Stephen Sommers films) who gives a decent performance but never seems particularly interested in the project. Polish actress Joanna Pacula is well cast as Elizabeth, with a maturity to be a convincing mother and warrior, although her East European accent does not particularly fit the part.
It is hard to know exactly what was intended for Crusade of Vengeance. In the writing and production the film feels like a mid-90s television series - perhaps an attempt to create a new Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess although the self-contained storyline would seem to limit the story's potential as a series pilot. As a film, it is just incredibly unambitious and seems to completely lack a raison d'etre or target demographic, particularly when considering the inclusion of an utterly gratuitous rape scene in what is otherwise a PG rated project, only the presence of the ever reliable Rutger Hauer as the villain gives it anything worth recommending although he is hardly in it enough to warrant tracking this down.
|Anyone famous in it?||
Rutger Hauer - a modern cult legend, appearing in a huge range from films from DTV to the mainstream.
Arnold Vosloo - a South African actor who played the lead role in the Darkman sequels.
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Bryon W. Thompson - has one other directing credit, on Seth Green drama Stonebrook (1999).|
|Any gore or violence ?||A little blood, nothing gory.|
|Any sex or nudity?||A quite vividly seen sexual assault on a topless woman. Brief topless shot in a sex scene.|
|Who is it for?||Hard to know who this was aimed for at all. Probably only of interest to Rutger Hauer completists.
|Visuals||Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
Print is okay with no damage, but the transfer seems to be a basic NTSC>PAL port so there is some colour and detail loss.
|Audio||English stereo - sounds fine.|
|Extras||The disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - PAL|
|Other regions?||Identical DVD in the US|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.|