Review: Last Knights
REVIEW: Well, this is a weird one. You'd think that a large-scale fantasy epic starring Morgan Freeman and Clive Owen would get a higher-profile release than the quiet VOD bow it's getting Friday and sure enough the final product hints at a somewhat uneven production history. Directed by Japanese director Kazuaki Kiriya, the helmer behind CASSHERN, I've been reading about this film since 2012. Watching the finished product, it looks like LAST KNIGHTS must have been shot with a healthy production budget, with good costuming and elaborate Eastern European sets. Yet, in the post-production process this seems to have suffered, with some outrageously uneven CGI and a complete lack of energy behind the camera strange considering Kiriya's resume.
LAST KNIGHTS seems to be a take on the famous forty-seven Ronin legend, albeit done on a far smaller-scale than the recent Keanu Reeves vehicle (they could have called this The Twelve Ronin'). The action has been transplanted from Japan to a kind of multi-racial medieval fantasy land that exists under a feudal system overseen by an Emperor (played by CAMP X-RAY's Peyman Moaadi in a handful of scenes). Morgan Freeman plays one of the nice-guy lords, which naturally means he's doomed. Clive Owen plays his roguish lieutenant/adopted son, with a mysterious past and an edge. Freeman's in and out of this fairly quickly, looking like he only shot a few days at most, and for most of his (scant) screen-time he does his usual thing, lending the film a bit of gravitas (and sporting a truly insane pig-tailed mustache).
This is really Clive Owen's movie and as usual he delivers even if LAST KNIGHTS seems below him. Seeing him here is like watching Rutger Hauer in one of those bad DTV action movies he found himself starring in throughout the nineties. He's good, but it feels like his talents are being wasted as he tries mightily to give his character some depth. A long interlude where Raiden leaves his clan to become a drunken vagrant at least gives Owen a chance to act a bit, although it's pretty easy to guess where the film is going to go from there. The subplot involving his wife played by Ayelet Zurer feels totally underdeveloped, which is a shame as her and Owen have good chemistry. Another problem with LAST KNIGHTS is that after a promising intro, more than an hour goes by without any action at all, a huge issue as the machinations of Aksel Hennie's snarling villain aren't very interesting. Hennie's a superstar in much of Europe, but he's wasted here in a two-dimensional part, and seems to have only been added to give the film some pre-sell value. He gets very little to do and his final showdown with Owen is very anti-climactic given Hennie's work as an action hero in movies like MAX MANUS.
Overall, LAST KNIGHTS is pretty mediocre, although Owen keeps the film from unraveling and a big fight scene between him and the baddie's henchman (Tsuyoshi Ihara) is pretty decent. As far as a VOD rental goes this isn't bad although the poor pacing and shoddy post-production work makes this seem more disposable than it would have been had Kiriya put more of a stamp on it and if the VFX were up to snuff. It's OK action fare but not much more than that.
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