Starring: Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, Aksel Hennie
The disgraced former warrior Raiden (Owen) leads his former army in a campaign against a corrupt and sadistic ruler (Aksel Hennie) to avenge his dishonoured master (Freeman) and take back their freedom.
After stumbling across the trailer for Last Knights I immediately thought that it might be worth checking it out at the cinema, but then found out to my surprise it was bypassing the multiplex and going straight to DVD. There was a time when Clive Owen was guaranteed box office, but now it seems Coventry’s finest is not the big draw he used to be. It is no surprise after watching Last Knights as to why it bypassed the cinema screen on its way to the bargain bin. Last Knights is a text book genre piece, lacking any creative imagination as it diligently ticks off all the way-too-familiar tropes of the swords and shields genre.
I personally love a historical action romp where the fights are purely physical, and so may be inclined to give Last Knights a better review than most, and in a genre where studios are unwilling to fork out the millions necessary to produce films of this genre that truly look the part (and understandably so), we often get abysmal genre flicks with embarrassingly amateurish production values. Well I am not sure of the exact budget of Last Knights, but in terms of visuals director Kazuaki Kiriya does a decent job and produces some solid (if slightly text book) action set pieces.
The story and script are instantly forgettable, and the film’s middle sequence does almost verge on laborious viewing as Michael Konyves and Dove Sussman’s script seems determined to prolong some extremely predictable revelations and the film’s inevitable climactic battle for as long as possible. When the moment we have all been so patiently waiting for arrives, there are some well-crafted moments, and though the painstakingly predictable narrative takes away a fair amount of the potential tension, it is an immensely watchable sequence.
Kiriya tries to go for moody, sombre and gritty instead of stylish, and the editing away from showing much wounded flesh proves there is an obvious lack of budget at his disposal, but that, the pale and very grey cinematography and text book choral score by Satnam Ramgotra and Martin Tillman make Last Knights painfully generic, but almost reassuringly so.
After King Arthur, I never expected Clive Owen to go near this genre again, but desperate times and all that! He is predictably solid in the lead, and does a very good at job at being Clive Owen in armour. Meanwhile Morgan Freeman seems half asleep spouting out random speeches and Aksel Hennie gets warmed up nicely for panto season as the one-note generic and clichéd evil antagonist. As Raiden’s trusted right hand man Cliff Curtis delivers a solid turn, and he and Owen strike a decent bromance which does help to make Last Knights that bit more enjoyable and engaging (but I do emphasise THAT bit more).
Last Knights knows it is not re-inventing the wheel, and due to this conscious demonstration of complete awareness and total lack of ambition, creativity and originality lies a film that is forgettable, but almost reassuringly enjoyable in just how generic and predictable it is. In the genre of switch your brain off films, this is at the top end of them. Oh, did I mention it is a sort-of remake of 47 Ronin? Well it is an improvement on that at least.