This technically impressive Euro-Asian co-production resets the 47 Ronin (the proper story, not the Keanu Reeves disaster) in a fantasy-medieval, multi-cultural version of the Byzantine Empire, looking for that Game of Thrones crossover.
After Morgan Freeman’s (Transcendence, Lucy) nobleman sacrifices himself on principle, Clive Owen (Bourne, Closer) heads the masterless Samurai – sorry, knights – in their revenge mission against the corrupt first minister Giza Mott (Aksel Hennie – Hercules – pitching somewhere between Christopher Walken and Brad Dourif).
Utterly predictable at every step, it’s earnest, worthy, straight-down-the-line – and a bit dull.
Other than the utter lack of originality, there is nothing particularly wrong with Last Knights. A dignified Freeman does that elder statesman thing and delivers the longest suicide speech in history – which exemplifies the trouble with the script; it’s all very flat, wordy and dour; in places ponderous. It lacks the gusto of Hercules, Centurion or The Eagle but remains a workmanlike actioner with a serious intent.
The fine collection of European, Chinese and Japanese actors plod through their lines with tones and expressions which telegraph This is a Very Serious Thing. I suppose it’s better than the Pantomime 80’s version of The Three Musketeers.
Even the set-piece finale where the Samurai – sorry, knights – attack the castle is perfectly well-executed yet somehow lacking in tension or drama.
There is nothing especially wrong with the Asian fight choreography which mixes in Wu-Shu, Kali, Kendo and that spinning-around, blade-behind-your-head, stage-fighting nonsense beloved of Jedi movies, although it would help if the characters weren’t wearing armour and weapons not seen in any actual historical era.
Clive Owen gets to re-tread his King Arthur performance as the leading Samurai – sorry, knight – dialling-down his performance to remind us he’s a serious actor; while he has that Gary Cooper, man-of-integrity act down pat,
Last Knights (2014)
Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Writers: Dove Sussman, Michael Konyves
Running time: 1 hr. 55 min.
Genre: Action & Adventure
Cast: Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, Cliff Curtis, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Aksel Hennie, Daniel Adegboyega, Michael J. Lombardi, Dave Legeno, Val Lauren, Noah Silver, Payman Maadi, Park Si-Hyeon, Giorgio Caputo, Ayelet Zurer, James Babson, Ahn Sung-ki, Rose Caton