Netherlands military/political history gets the Michael Bay treatment in "Admiral," a lavishly art-directed, loud, combat-chaotic and ultimately superficial biopic of legendary 17th-century Dutch naval genius Michiel de Ruyter, whose trade-war victories against the British fleet made him a national hero.
Though not of noble birth, the tactically brilliant De Ruyter (Frank Lammers), a stocky family man beloved by his men, was tapped to take over the 20,000-ship Dutch armada by Prime Minister Johan de Witt (Barry Atsma), whom we also see fighting a second struggle at home against Orangists who want to see the republic become a monarchy under Prince William (a mincing Egbert Jan-Weeber, not so subtly hinting at William's alleged homosexuality).
"Admiral" (called "Michiel de Ruyter" in the Netherlands) is in constant conflict-preparedness mode, its lackluster land scenes of political intrigue and home life merely holding patterns between director and cinematographer Roel Reiné's noisy, camera-restless sea battles, filmed for maximum confusion and slo-mo grandiosity. (There are as many splintery sprays of shattered wood as there are lines of dialogue.)
With loving shots of booming, towering ships so dominant, and decades squeezed into what feels like a week of action, there's barely enough time to develop De Ruyter as a character in his own movie, or even successfully explain his war strategies. But there's plenty of room for Charles Dance, carrying some residual "Game of Thrones" snarl, to chew the diffusely lighted scenery as England's scheming King Charles II.
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Rating: No rating.