As Japanese director Kazuaki Kiriya’s two preceding endeavours Casshern and Goemon were both well-received on home soil, a move to Hollywood did seem like a predictable move for the filmmaker – and that’s exactly what has transpired, as he presents his third production Last Knights, collecting a stellar cast of renowned actors to help breathe some life into what can only be described as a tedious and generic narrative.
Clive Owen plays our protagonist, the fallen, dispirited warrior Raiden who falls into a black hole following the death of his honourable master Bartok (Morgan Freeman). Downtrodden and turning to alcohol for a way out, Raiden knows that eventually he must rise up and stay true to the faith bestowed on him from his departed master, and assemble an army of men to seek vengeance on the tyrannical and corrupt Emperor (Peyman Moaadi) and his sadistic accomplice Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie).
Michael Konyves and Dove Sussman’s screenplay does little to accommodate the viewer in the opening act, as we’re thrown into this world with little understanding or comprehension of the universe we’re inhabiting. When suspending disbelief, as is required with this particular offering, it’s essential we come to terms with the rules of this fictional setting, and contextualise our narrative in accordance with that. In this instance, however, that’s no easy task.
Nonetheless, thanks to a collection of remarkable actors – and impressive performances to boot – this adventurous picture remains watchable. Freeman is as sincere and charismatic as always, albeit for just a short while (we’ve had to get used to that of late), while Owen excels as the sword wielding hero, while simply having the calibre of actors such as Moaadi and Hennie making up the supporting cast makes the world of difference. It’s a shame we don’t spend too much time in the company of the latter, who remains the best thing about this production. He is overtly hammy, a pantomime villain of sorts who brings a vital touch of frivolity to proceedings. But not only that, he has an air of unpredictability about him, a volatile, callous nature where you just think he’s capable of doing something unspeakably savage.
Last Knights struggles to break free of the genre tropes however, combining elements of both the typical revenge plot thriller, and then the Game of Thrones inspired castles and brothels environment – offering absolutely nothing that we haven’t seen before. Though conversely, there is a comfortability about that, which results in a film that while wholly uninspiring, makes for undemanding, satisfying cinema.