If you said the name Jan Žižka (Ben Foster) outside of the Czech Republic you’d be hard pressed to find someone, outside of historians who know the rebel general. Petr Jákl’s film Medieval seeks to remedy that by giving a look at the young life of the man. Following Žižka as he and his band of mercenaries’ kidnap Katherine (Alice Lowe) the fiancée of a nobleman to force his had to assist in the crowning of the next holy roman emperor. What follows is a battle across Europe as he rallies a band of rebels to his cause in the hopes of a better world for the people around him. Written by Jákl and his father Petr Jákl Sr, Medieval is an idealistic look at a man who was praised for his military record and brutality. So understandably Medieval is framed as a poorly structured love story.
While Foster is quietly effective as Žižka, its his relationship to Lowe’s Katherine that carries little to no weight. There is no chemistry between either Foster or Lowe and Jákl’s script adds little build-up to their so-called courtship. Medieval gains a sense of urgency through its various bloody combat scenes, ones that highlight Žižka’s intelligence as a leader but in its quieter moments as people plot behind the scenes that everything feels utterly pointless. Matthew Goode and Michael Caine are stuck delivering stunted dialogue, with Goode in particular giving a painfully over the top performance, a campy turn in a film trying for realism. Although it never drags due to the large amount of visceral combat, Jákl’s film feels unavoidably cheap, with awkward dubbing, some interesting CGI and an inconsistent cast. As a piece of historical pulp, Medieval works just about but as a serious feature about a Czech hero, it leaves much to be desired.