Roel Reiné leads a cinematic double life. In the US he’s known for his ability to turn out direct to video films and sequels like DEAD IN TOMBSTONE and HARD TARGET 2. In his native Netherlands, he makes historical epics like REDBAD. Big, massive, two-and-a-half-hour epics. Having seen and enjoyed several of his DTV films I was curious to see how he handled a much bigger project. With Epic Pictures releasing it in North America I got my chance to see it.
Redbad (Gijs Naber) has a crisis of faith when his girlfriend Fenne (Lisa Smit) is chosen for sacrifice to ensure a good harvest. This puts him in direct conflict with his father King Aldigsl. The Franks storm the city during the ritual, killing the king and taking the city. Redbad’s Uncle Eibert (Derek de Lint SOLDIER OF ORANGE, BLACK BOOK) uses him as a scapegoat and has him tied to a raft and pushed out to sea.
But as chance would have it, he washes ashore and is found by Vikings. Proving himself in battle he is adopted by them and marries the king’s daughter. On a visit to his homeland, he sees that the Franks under Pepijn van Herstal (Jonathan Banks BREAKING BAD) have imposed Christianity on his people. Seeing how the people, including his sister, are treated he raises an army to liberate them.
The plot is fairly typical for a historical epic, apart from casting the Christians as the villains. And also typical of many other films of its type, some facts seem to have been changed in the name of telling a good story. But since Redbad isn’t well known outside his native land that shouldn’t matter to most audiences.
What does matters most is the story told on the screen and REDBAD tells an interesting story but takes a bit too long to do so. The action scenes are well filmed and quite exciting, but there’s just way too much going on between them. There’s way too much detail about his life that really doesn’t matter to the story. For most viewers, a lot of it will just seem like a historical soap opera. A trimmed-down version for international release might have been a good idea.
History buffs should love REDBAD. Those drawn in by the promise of epic Viking action might want to keep a finger on the fast forward button, however. The battle scenes do deliver, but it can be slow going between them.
Epic Pictures releases REDBAD on VOD Sept. 14th