ASIAN FILM - Review
13:18 - 7th August 2015, by David West

Last Knights

It’s been a long wait for the English language debut of director Kazuaki Kiriya, who gave us the visual spectacles of Goemon and Casshern. In Last Knights, he tackles that most venerated of Japanese stories, Chushingura – The Vendetta Of The Loyal 47 Ronin. The setting is transposed from feudal Japan to an unnamed country in an ethnically diverse medieval Europe where the noble and upstanding Lord Bartok (Morgan Freeman) is provoked into drawing a sword on the greedy and corrupt imperial advisor Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie). After Bartok is executed for this offence, his foremost retainer, the deadly swordsman Raiden (Clive Owen), retreats into drunkenness. But is he drowning his sorrows or biding his time until he can exact his revenge on Mott?

Anyone familiar with Chushingura knows the answer to that, so the film stands or falls on how eloquently it tells a well-worn tale. It helps that the leads are all very strong. Freeman brings an effortless gravitas to every scene, Owen is a sanguine, brooding hero, and Aksel Hennie makes a wonderfully reptilian nemesis. The vigorous action scenes are crafted by Korean stunt maestro Jung Doo-hong, best known for his brilliant collaborations with Ryoo Seung-wan. Owen does a lot of his own fights and pulls them off with style. Visually, the overall aesthetic is much more naturalist than Goemon or Casshern, but the Czech Republic locations provide a beautiful backdrop.

It lacks Goemon’s dazzle and softens Chushingura’s nihilism, but Last Knights is an entertaining, sword-slinging swashbuckler.
SCORE: 4/5
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