Last Knights (Blu-ray) (2015)
|Year Of Production||2015|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Kazuaki Kiriya|
Si Yeon Park
Sung Ki Ahn
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Raiden (Clive Owen) is the commander of a troop of soldiers owning absolute and unquestioning allegiance to nobleman Lord Bartok (Morgan Freeman). Bartok is summonsed to the capital by the Emperor (Payman Moaadi), although the summons in reality comes from the Emperor’s advisor Geza Mott (Aksel Hennie), an avaricious and corrupt official who uses the court to acquire great wealth and power. When Lord Bartok refuses to bribe him Geza Mott manufactures an incident; Bartok is tried and executed, his land confiscated, his people evicted and his soldiers disbanded.
Geza Mott knows that Raiden will seek to avenge his lord, so he orders his commander, Ito (Tsuyoshi Ihara), watch Raiden’s every move. But Raiden descends into drink and debauchery; his wife (Ayelet Zurer) leaves him, he pawns his sword and refuses to acknowledge his former friend and lieutenant Cortez (Cliff Curtis). But of course it is all an act, and when the men are ready they launch an assault on the castle of Geza Mott to extract revenge and regain their honour.
It is clear that Last Knights is a retelling of the 47 Ronin story but set in an alternate Medieval European world. The director was Japanese Kazuaki Kiriya, whose first English language film this is after two Japanese language films Casshern (2004) and Goemon (2009), both of which he also wrote and was cinematographer and editor, although for Last Knights he is the director only. When I reviewed Goemon on this site I noted the enhanced and desaturated colours, jump cuts, slow motion, freeze frame, 360 degree quick pans and enough flashy hero moments to deck out a dozen films. Last Knights is set in an altogether different drab world of snow and grey skies, but the colours have been again manipulated to give a silvery, unnatural, over-bright look.
The film was shot in Czechoslovakia and features some nice castle sets and a multinational cast that includes Clive Owen, Morgan Freeman, actors from around Europe, Israel, Iran, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. Morgan Freeman adds his usual gravitas and distinctive voice to the role while Clive Owen is OK but looks grim and glum for most of the picture; few of the other roles make much impact except perhaps for New Zealander Cliff Curtis or Noah Silver as Gabriel, the youngest of Raiden’s troop. However Tsuyoshi Ihara, as Geza Mott’s commander yet a man with his compassion and honour intact, has presence but Aksel Hennie is hammy and slimy, and beats his wife, so it is hard to see how he could fool anyone about his real character and designs. His wife is in fact played by a Korean, Si Yeon Park, with another Korean, Sung Ki Ahn, as her father; this multiculturalism makes the world of Last Knights feel strange, but I guess the casting helps the film’s sales in Asian markets!
Last Knights commences with a battle in a forest that has nothing to do with the plot other than show off the fighting ability of Raiden and his men before spending over an hour on various machinations and political manoeuvrings, including Raiden’s supposed fall into degradation. This is interesting in parts but is too long as the plot crawls to a standstill and there are side plots to do with Geza Mott’s wife and father, which also add to the extra time without achieving much. The last third of the film is an attack on Geza Mott’s castle and keep that is chaotic and energetic; however, it takes place at night when things are indistinct and it features the close in, jump cutting type of action choreography that can make those susceptible very queasy. It is also not helped that the film is presented in an incorrect, cropped, aspect ratio.
The story of the 47 Ronin is well known in Japan with at least three film treatments, including the 1941 classic Genroku Chushingura, while the recent (2013) film with Keanu Reeves brought the story to the west. As a classic story about loyalty, honour and revenge it resonates, but muddled plotting, a meandering middle act and some mixed casting means that Last Knights only delivers intermittently.
Last Knights is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, rather than the original 2.35:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code. For an action film with widescreen landscapes this is a disappointment.
As noted, the film’s colours have been desaturated resulting in an over-bright silver grey look, although some of the snowy landscapes and castles look spectacular. Interiors are dark and fairly murky and when lit they have a yellowish sheen, thus skin tones vary from silver in exteriors to very brown in interiors. The detail on close-ups is fine, but due to the manipulation some wideshots are less clear and shadow detail hazy. Blacks are solid however.
Other than some slight ghosting against surfaces such as grills and bars I did not notice any marks or artefacts.
There are no subtitles.
One mark is deducted from the total as per site policy.
The audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1.
The audio is very good. Due to the multinational cast some of the English dialogue, especially from the Koreans, was hard to hear when subtitles would have helped. The surrounds and rears were used extensively during the fighting with arrows flying by, swords clashing and bodies thumping, but even in the quieter moments the audio featured ambient noises, bridles clinking, hooves out of frame, voices and footsteps. The sub-woofer added appropriate bass to thumps, crashes, an explosion of fire and the music.
Surprisingly with this multinational cast I did not notice any lip synchronisation problems.
The orchestral score by Martin Tillmann and Satnam Ramgotra was epic in tone, thus suiting the visuals.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing. “Play Feature” is the only menu option.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A US Blu-ray of Last Knights is in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and offers English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles as well as these extras:
A comprehensive win for Region A.
The 47 Ronin is a classic Japanese story about loyalty, honour and revenge. Moving the setting to an alternative medieval world removes some of the cultural impact and motivation which might have been compensated for with a better and tighter script and more action. As it Last Knights only delivers intermittently and is a bit of a missed opportunity.
The video is obviously manipulated and in the incorrect aspect ratio, the audio is very good. There are no extras, unlike the US release.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|