“Last Knights,” the new feudal lord drama starring Morgan Freeman and Clive “The man who might have been Bond” Owen, is set in the manly world of honour, loyalty and revenge. It plays a bit like “Game of Thrones,” but without the dragons or the nudity.
At the heart of “Last Knights”—and no, this isn’t another of Freeman’s “Last Vegas” old geezer on the town movies—is the relationship between Lord Bartok (Freeman), a nobleman tired of paying exorbitant taxes to the Emperor’s (Peyman Moaadi) ambitious and greedy first minister Gezza Mott (Aksel Hennie), and warrior Raiden (Owen). The soldier isn’t just hired muscle, he’s a trusted confidant and extremely loyal. When a double-cross forces Raiden to perform an unthinkable act, the kingdom is thrown into chaos until the inevitable revenge plot kicks into action.
From Morgan Freeman’s majestic opening narration to the pounding score and wild swordplay, the first moments of “Last Knights” are ID. That’s Incredibly Dramatic in bolded, capital letters with a flourish of calligraphy thrown in for good measure. It sets the slightly over-the-top tone for the rest of the film, but despite some wild performances—I’m looking at you Hennie—a “Rambo” inspired action sequence and a beheading or two, director Kaz I Kiriya’s deliberate pacing eats into the theatrics. Couple that with a long mid-movie stretch that sets up the climatic battle but actually sucks the guts out of thirty minutes of running time, and you’re left with a film with expertly staged sword fights, suitable grimy warriors and a paranoid and dangerous villain, but not as much entertainment value as the opening promises.
Next time perhaps hire a dragon co-star.