Having survived a Viking raid when his parents were killed and young sister kidnapped, Irish youth Gest (Jakob Þór Einarsson) spends 20 years planning his revenge.
Arriving in Iceland, it isn't long before he's Yojimbo-ing things up between his two targets, the blood-brothers Erik (Flosi Ólafsson) and Thord (Helgi Skúlason).
These Vikings had fled to Iceland with their men, to escape the wrath of King Harald of Norway after a failed coup attempt, so they're not exactly trusting to start with.
Gest very quickly starts playing them off against each other, and when one is killed you expect the film to be heading into its final act.
However, things get complicated when Gest discovers not only has one of the men married his sister (Edda Björgvinsdóttir), but also fathered a child, Einar (Gottskálk D. Sigurdarson) with her.
An almost legendary film that's hard to track down these days, When The Raven Flies goes by several names (the "When" seems to be optional in the main title, for instance), including Revenge of The Barbarians in the States and Hrafninn Flýgur in its original Icelandic.
Touted as the "most authentic Viking film ever", this Icelandic-Swedish co-production from 1984 certainly benefits from its shooting locations in Iceland, complete with black beaches and craggy hills; and unremitting weather, alternating between torrential rain and gale-force winds; as well as a cast speaking Icelandic.
But When The Raven Flies also owes a debt to the sword-and-sorcery genre so prevalent in cinema at that time, not that there's any magic or monsters in this one, but it has that gritty, Earthy, small-cast feel of so many similar cinematic stories featuring people swinging swords and axes.
While the overarching plot may not be that original - we've seen it played out with samurai, Wild West gunslingers, fantasy warriors, and gangsters - the Viking period, with its set attitudes to honour and ritual, gives it a fresh feeling.
The verisimilitude is heightened through the use of unusually-fashioned weaponry, which I'm presuming are the 'real deal' compared to flashier Hollywood armaments.
I also loved the fact that everyone rode the small but powerful horses native to Iceland, just adding another layer of authenticity to the drama.
The film is, naturally, violent throughout, but the bright red 'blood' - and avoidance of too much dwelling on injuries - lowers the gore factor down to almost Saturday evening family viewing.
Easy to root for, Gest is a pretty cool hero, armed with his spear-concealing shepherd's crook and an array of deadly throwing blades.
While he's barely set foot in Iceland before he's killing off bad guys, it's all part of a methodical, long game.
And I couldn't stop myself from making Batman comparisons (inspired by the murder of his parents before his eyes), even though it's never expressly stated how long Gest spent on his training and how long on actually setting his Machiavellian scheme in motion (we discover that it began quite some time before he arrives in Iceland).
Possibly because it's subtitled, I must confess at times I felt this 105-minute tale dragged a bit in the middle (there is an English-language cut of the film on the DVD, but that was about quarter of an hour shorter and I wanted the full experience).
However, the pay-off at the end is worth the time invested, especially as it sets up the potential for another cycle of violence... as happens with blood feuds.
When The Raven Flies turns out to be the first part of a Viking Trilogy, but, except for brief trailers on the disc, I know nothing (yet) about the subsequent films, In The Shadow Of The Raven and The White Viking.
I was lucky enough to snag a DVD - via eBay and shipped in from Germany - for just over £3, around a tenth of the price I've seen the film listed at (when it crops up on either eBay or Amazon).
If you like Viking films, then I'd definitely say this is one worth hanging on for, just be careful not to pay over the odds.