In Kazuaki Kiriya’s Last Knights the viewer is thrown into the thick of the action with little background knowledge, instantly a part of this fictitious world and having to abide by a new set of rules, coming to terms with the universe we’re inhabiting. We require more build-up to help us comprehend what’s going on to suspend our disbelief accordingly – and yet what transpires is all too disorientating an experience, which sets the precedence for a film that is a continuous struggle to get on board with.
Clive Owen plays Raiden – a fallen, dispirited warrior who falls into a black hole, drinking himself to an early grave following the death of his master, the great Bartok (Morgan Freeman), who is killed in cold blood following an order by the tyrannical Emperor (Peyman Moaadi). However Raiden knows of his responsibilities, bestowed with the duty of becoming the new leader of his people, and so he assembles an army of men to seek vengeance of those who have wronged him – starting with the Emperor and his sadistic, barbaric accomplice Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie).
In spite of the generic, seen-it-all-before nature of this title, the performances from the stellar cast just about elevate it into being a fun, entirely watchable piece of cinema. Freeman turns in a sincere display, albeit in more of a cameo role, while Owen shows off his distinct aptitude to be a leading man by crafting a character that is easy to invest in and get behind. However it’s the antagonist – Gezza Mott – who truly brings this tale to life; though needless to say he has far too little screen time. When he is in a scene, it’s compelling, intense and entertaining, such is the level of volatility shown by Hennie, who brings an unpredictability to the role, where he seems capable of absolutely anything.
The strong array of performances aren’t quite enough to turn this enjoyable movie into a special one, however, as it is undone and cheapened by it’s frustrating inclination to be so faithful to the tropes of the genre. Stealing conventionalities from both the revenge thriller narrative and then the Games of Thrones inspired universe, we’re left to deal with a film that while certainly undemanding and easy to watch, offers absolutely nothing we haven’t seen countless times before. If you do want to get your fix from this strand of entertainment, then tune in to Sky Atlantic every week and watch Game of Thrones itself, rather than an imitative attempt such as this.