DVD Review: Last Knights

Repackaging has a long and noble history in film. “West Side Story,” which is “Romeo and Juliet” played out between two warring gangs in New York, is one of the greatest movies of all time. “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) is a very enjoyable, cowboy retelling of the Japanese classic “The Seven Samurai.” Ditto “Ten Things I Hate About You” (1999), which is “The Taming of he Shrew” and “Clueless” (1995), which is a Valley Girl version of Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

Which brings us to the tepidly titled “Last Knights.” The Japanese director, Kazuaki Kiriya, retells the story — the true story — of the 47 Ronin. The historical event took place around 1701 when the shogun summoned a regional lord to the palace and the visit goes south. The regional lord is slain and his 47 best guys are left leaderless, which is to say, his 47 Samurai become Ronin, which is what Samurai become when their boss goes down.

Director Kiriya repackages said story as a medieval sword-clanger set who-knows-where. Not Japan. The regional lord, Bartok, who displeases the top banana, is played by Morgan Freeman, whose primary role is doing the voiceover as the movie opens. Great voice. He gets croaked early on and that leaves his crew, led by Captain Raiden (Clive Owen), in hostile territory. But these guys have a code of honor and they are brave as lions. They rally, they raid, they are outnumbered. Guess who wins?

So the question for the group is: Why a sword-and-shield all-knighter? Would not the original tale, complete with Samurai and shogun, be more interesting? We think so.

The biggest problem is the predictable nature of this one-dimensional exercise. Captain Raiden outs with his swift sword and slashes his way through the emperor’s guards as if they were brandishing bread sticks. The main bad guys are slain in order with the most gory departure accorded to the immensely evil Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie…never heard of him), who is the spitting image of Steve Buscemi except worse hair.

The dialogue is no less limp. The fearless captain issues his call to arms thusly: “We have planned. We have sacrificed. We have waited for the right moment and now we will restore the voice of our people.” What people? Where are these guys from? Not Japan.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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