Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Starring: Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, Aksel Hennie, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Cliff Curtis
Written by: Michael Konyves and Dove Sussman
Running Time: 115 mins
Release date: 17th April 2015
A snowy backdrop where it never seems to end with the constantly falling white stuff. The clanking of metal against metal. Men walking in slow motion while in a perfect triangle formation. Rooms filled with hazy smoke. Welcome to the wonderful world of knights! Cashing in on the enormous success of Game Of Thrones comes a mediocre, cliché ridden adventure that doesn’t seem to have an original bone in its body.
Raiden, a commander loyal to Bartok during a time when the land is ruled by an Emperor and his religious advisors, including the greedy, power-hungry Gezza Mott. When Bartok is dishonoured, his army disbanded, Raiden starts to fall down a rocky road of drink while Gezza Mott is fearful of revenge. What he doesn’t know is that a secret army is forming.
There’s not a problem with cashing in on a genre that is popular. Every film company does it. What you need to do is come up with an idea that takes that genre into a different direction, saying to the audience: “You’ve seen that, now see this!” What Kazuaki Kiriya’s film does is get a tick list of the things that have worked with this type of film and just followed them, while stealing ideas from other movies at the same time.
So we have long, pondering speeches about honour and loyalty, a baddie filled with paranoia as he surrounds himself in gold and jewels from bribing others. The unintentionally funny moment is his first appearance, where all we see is a figure stroking a dog, al la James Bond villain. All he needed to say was “I’ve been expecting you, Mr Raiden!” Topping this we have a fallen hero, who we all know is going to rise from the flames like a phoenix. If ever there was a slot A, tab B style of film making, this is it.
Add to the nonsense a final act that feels like a rip-off of The Dirty Dozen and The Wild Geese, as the brave knights prepare to siege a fortress. The only thing missing was the operation rhyme that made the Lee Marvin war film so famous.
As with most of these films, the big fight sequences are the driving force behind them. We all love a bit of sword play. Months of choreography to get them right so no one actually gets hurt. Then you place them up on the screen, blur them with shaky camera work and dark shadows so it’s almost impossible to follow any of the action whatsoever. Who is fighting who, Who is winning, Who is dying. After the joy of being able to watch the set pieces in John Wick, this takes the action set pieces backwards more than forward.
What is the real crime is wasting two Oscar nominated actors and one Oscar winner! Morgan Freeman, looking like a walrus with two tusk-like strands to his beard, is given two or three rambling, moralistic speeches, then leaves the film fifteen minutes in, to the point that by the end, you’ve actually forgotten he was in it in the first place. Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was so good in House Of Shadow And Fog, is basically reduced to being a bit player as Morgan Freeman’s wife. One dramatic moment involving a slap and she too disappears for the rest of the film.
So it’s up to Clive Owen to lead the film. Taking on the loyal hero, you watch as he goes through the film, which everyone is taking so seriously, with a stone face and speaking every line like he is hoping someone with a bigger budget will whisking him away, give him something better than this to show off his talents. Even though he runs the film, you can’t help feel he deserves better. Thankfully he keeps the whole thing afloat, otherwise it would have been the dullest film around.
Last Knights (the only sense of humour in the whole mess) is a waste of talents, loaded down with clichés and is completely unimaginative. It drags on for nearly two hours and you feel every single minute. Not a terrible film, just not that exciting or that involving.