Flesh + Blood

1985, Movie, R, 126 mins

Review

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A brutal, unremittingly grim look at the year 1501, FLESH + BLOOD opens with the siege of a city somewhere in Western Europe, presumably northern Italy. Fernando Hillbeck is the former lord of the city, thrown out in a revolt, but now back to reclaim what's his with the help of a mercenary army organized by Jack Thompson. Hillbeck tells the motley but dangerous professional soldiers that they may loot the city for 24 hours, but once it has been taken and the pillaging has commenced, he changes his mind and has Thompson order his men to lay down their arms and leave. The disgruntled mercenaries are forced to depart empty-handed, but one small band, led by Rutger Hauer, slips out a sword hidden under the robe of a priest. Later, when the men dig up a statue of St. Martin while burying a camp follower's stillborn baby, the priest takes it as a divine revelation that the saint's mercenary namesake will lead them to riches, chiefly by stealing from Hillbeck, with the spoils to include the lord's virginal daughter, Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (ROBOCOP), FLESH + BLOOD makes no attempt to romanticize the Middle Ages. Cruelty, violence, filth, and pestilence are the order of the day. The battle scenes are impressive, though underpopulated, and the camerawork is fluid. FLESH + BLOOD came and went almost unnoticed in its US release, lost amid a welter of inferior European sword-and-sorcery films, but it deserved a better fate. A more appalling view of the turmoil and misery of the late Middle Ages may never be seen. leave a comment

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