Friday, 17 November 2017
Last Knights (2015)
I wavered back and forth between giving this film a qualified recommendation or not. It is a better adaptation of the tale of 47 Ronin than the 2013 film, for one thing. Ultimately I decided not to recommend it, because I felt that "If you want an adaptation of the 47 Ronin, and don't mind that the setting's been rendered into generic medieval empire so that the cast can be multi-racial (though of course, mostly caucasian), then this will adequately fill your needs" was perhaps a bit too qualified.
So, in the aforementioned generic medieval empire we've got a bunch of different lords, all of whom have loyal soldier-retainers who live by a code of honour. It's all pretty flagrantly 18th century Japan, only full of white people.
Anyway, the emperor's chief adviser is a corrupt sort who expects the nobles to provide him with opulent gifts if they don't want anything unfortunate to happen to them. Given that the emperor seems to be condoning this attitude, most of the lords knuckle under.
But of course there's always got to be one stiff-necked troublemaker, and it's Morgan Freeman, turning up for a brief period to add some gravitas to proceedings before coming to an inevitably sticky end. This house is destroyed, his family and retainers driven off the land, and he himself is killed.
The wicked adviser expects reprisals from the dead man's former retainers, and for the next year he turns his home into the most heavily fortified place in the empire, while also spying on all those who he thinks might take part in any reprisals. Surprise surprise, it's only when he finally believes that they've given up any thoughts of revenge that they spring their desperate plan to make him pay: a plan which even if successful, will probably lead to their deaths.
As I said at the start, if you want a narrative that's close to the classic Japanese story, and don't mind the white-washed setting, this film is probably adequate to your needs. It has some decent action scenes and the basic plot structure is sound, if not exactly innovative. However, I suspect the audience that does care about an adaptation of The 47 Ronin is probably also an audience that cares about the setting. And they might be better served by one of the Japanese language adaptations. Perhaps even the one I plan to review next week :)