OK, so Last Knights isn’t technically direct-to-VOD. It’s in that grey area of fantasy/period sword and sandal movies also occupied by this year’s Seventh Son and Outcast, where they exhibit all the normal signs of a direct-to-VOD movie, except they got a tiny limited run in addition to coming out via the usual digital suspects. But even if you pop a movie like Last Knights on a couple dozen screens, it is still a direct-to-VOD movie in a spiritual sense.
Clive Owen sleepwalks through The Knick’s hiatus as Raiden, the sworn sword of his master Lord Bartok (Morgan Freeman), whose honor is sullied through the machinations of Geza Mott (Aksel Hennie), the power-hungry advisor to a corrupt Emperor (Peyman Moaadi). There are some other familiar faces as well, including Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ayelet Zurer of Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil as Bartok and Raiden’s wives, respectively, and “That Guy” Cliff Curtis as Raiden’s second-in-command. Revenge quest blah blah blah. “Regain your honor” blah blah blah. It’s all extremely predictable. Instead of this movie, I’d have preferred one with Raiden from Mortal Kombat and Rasputin’s bat sidekick Bartok from Anastasia, but I guess God doesn’t want me to have nice things.
Last Knights is both better and worse than Outcast, aka That One With Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen and Truly Awful Haircuts. Better because nothing about it is terrible, and a few things even piqued my interest for a hot minute or two, namely Geza Mott’s sworn sword, Ito (Tsuyoshi Ihara), and the major action setpiece where the heroes attack Geza’s compound. Worse because even that wasn’t enough to keep 80% of the movie from being pretty damn boring, where Outcast at least had Hayden Christensen’s awful accent and Cage’s bonkers line readings (some of which are now on YouTube) to spice things up. If you have to watch one, I’d still recommend Last Knights (Cage isn’t in Outcast all that much), but you’d be better off popping over to Netflix and watching Ironclad instead (or at least this scene where Paul Giamatti loses his shit on repeat for Ironclad’s 121-minute running time).
One last point: Like this weekend’s record-buster, Furious 7, Last Knights has a diverse cast, a result in part of being a Korean co-production. The kingdom where it takes place appears to be an amalgamation of Turkey, Europe, and the Middle East, a refreshing change from period pieces that are set in the Generic European Middle Ages, and there weren’t brown people in the Generic European Middle Ages, nosir. While that’s good, if you’re already creating a fictional setting, there’s no reason it has to be one where all the knights are dudes. I’m just saying. This movie gives us four female characters: Two wives (one of whom disappears halfway through the film), one daughter (who’s sold into prostitution), and a wife to one character/daughter to another whose main role in the film is to be beaten by her husband to prove what a dick he is. Give me a lady knight. Or a lady noble. There is no reason that 90% of characters in this movie (or most movies) should default to male.
Even with female knights, however, this movie would still suck.