Cataline Recommends: Last Knights…with Enthusiasm

This is from Slant Magazine. I’m only posting the link so you can laugh at the writer’s breathtaking ignorance, unearned arrogance, and hilarious stupidity.

“Last Knights is another macho celebration of honor and self-sacrifice, of fighting for “freedom” because someone else told you to, that’s devoid of any acknowledgement(sp) of the inherent irony of that ideology. This film’s neurotic code of conduct is best encapsulated by a character who insists that “the wounds of honor are self-inflicted.” When Bartok (Morgan Freeman), a nobleman, is killed by his EveryKingdom because he refuses to yield to a venal minister’s (Aksel Hennie) corrupt tax demands (demand for a bribe), Bartok’s general, Raiden (Clive Owen), concocts an elaborate revenge campaign to uphold his master’s beliefs, which don’t appear to be any different from the evil minister’s. And lest we miss the severity of the minister’s self-absorption, he’s portrayed by Hennie with a pointedly fey sense of physicality that often serves as medieval-movie shorthand for “queer.”

This howler monkey’s review can be summed up in two words: Beyond Gay. The hatred of traditional masculinity and physical courage is so thick John Scalzi could have written it. The anaphylactic shock resulting from the merest whiff of testosterone probably sent him to the hospital for an emergency estrogen transfusion. He likely found himself accidentally manspreading in urgent care and collapsed in a sobbing heap, begging every woman in earshot to forgive him for having been born with a penis (such as it is). And asking them with tears streaming down his face if there was any way at all he could demean and humiliate himself for their entertainment.

The amount of lies he was able to pack into just the first sentence is nothing short of amazing, “fighting for “freedom” because someone else told you to, that’s devoid of any acknowledgement of the inherent irony of that ideology. ” A flat fucking lie. Nobody in that film said anything at any time about “freedom.” This film was about men devoted to honor. The fact that this drooling piss-stain of man couldn’t differentiate between the two because he hates both with a passion his woman* can only dream about.

Given that my average reader is drastically more intelligent than the entire editorial staff of Slant, I am willing to bet (and even pay up) that all of you have recognized in that Boneless Gamma Wonder’s scribbling above, the tale of the 47 Ronin. Which he was clearly and obviously too uneducated to recognize for himself.

“More than the cherry blossoms,
Inviting a wind to blow them away,
I am wondering what to do,
With the remaining springtime
.”

-Death poem of Asano Naganori on the occasion of his seppuku.

Just as quick overview for the benefit of any lost and bewildered Slant reader that blundered xhr way in here and is too far gone in a grand mal seizure brought on by exposure to my toxic masculinity to now to click away from the Dark Herald: In 1701, the daimyo, Asano Naganori drew his sword and attacked the corrupt court official, Kira Yoshinaka (Yoshihisa) for demanding a bribe from him. Baring steel in the Shogun’s palace was a very big no-no. Consequently, Nagnori was invited to offer an apology with extreme prejudice to the Shogun. He did so and cut open his belly as a testament to this.

Remember a Seppuku wasn’t a sentence or an execution, it was an exclamation point. It was a way of testifying to how much you meant something.

Naganori’s fief was forfeited and his samurai were now masterless ronin. A samurai had status in medieval Japan. A ronin had none. They were viewed, (rightfully so) as a public menace because their skills were pretty much only useful for banditry.

Asano Naganori’s men decided they weren’t taking this one lying down. Bushido required them to avenge the death of their master. However, Kira was expecting this and fortified himself very effectively. The 47 Ronin, agreed to disband for a while in order to lure Kira into a false sense of security.

They found odd jobs around Edo as tradesmen and several of them began working in and around Kira’s fortified home. Yes, they were taking notes. Their commander Oishi Yoshino, was being monitored by Kira’s spies. To deflect suspicion he took up being the town drunk.

After two years the Ronin reassembled, renewed their oaths and launched their attack. When they captured Kira he was offered a chance to commit seppuku but he died a sniveling coward. Oishi and his men then tidied up after themselves (seriously, they did), then presented the head of Kira to their master’s grave. They then surrendered to the authorities.

Since they were Ronin they rated nothing more than crucifixion.

But here’s the thing. The 47 Ronin came along at a time when the samurai as a class were feeling a great malaise. They were warriors but there had been no war since the rise of Tokugawa Shogunate. Their salaries had been fixed for one hundred years but their was no adjustment for the low-grade inflation that was going on in Japan. They were all gradually slipping down a greasy pole and they were forbidden by law to climb back up it. The samurai were losing their place. Then along came these forty-seven cowboys who reminded all of them what Bushido was all about

The Shogun didn’t dare execute them. So instead he allowed them to apologize as their master had done and followed him into the next world. And as a sweetener he allowed the Naganori clan to be re-established.

The 47 Ronin is the best known and most widely recognized story from medieval Japan… And this super educated and culturally aware critic for Slant didn’t recognize it!

Ha! Ha! Ha! (*gasp…wheez…gasp*) Ha! Ha! Ha!

Anyway on to Last Knights itself. The director attempted to bring the story of the 47 Ronin to the Western world by creating a new setting for it. It’s a fantasy medieval European setting, that comes across as much more Byzantine than western Europe in a generalized sort of way. That works because of the more central location of Byzantium. More Easteros than Westeros. It made for an intriguing new look for a mythical setting.

Satnam Ramgotra was a surprisingly excellent choice to compose the score for this film, working as he does with Indian, African and European elements in his compositions. It’s not intrusive, it underscores the somber tone that predominates the film but then ramps up the tension and excitement during the attack. Most of this was done with percussion instruments, which reminded me, favorably of Akira.

Morgan Freeman does two things well, noblemen and bums. That’s pretty much it. And here he was an excellent choice to play the rigidly honorable Lord Bartok (Naganori’s stand-in). He delivered his own eulogy with stoic yet sardonic humor.

Clive Owen played his commander Raiden and did so perfectly. A warrior so absolutely devoted to his code of honor that he thought nothing of degrading himself for a year because he knew in his deepest heart that the only man who could take his honor from him was himself.

Aksel Hennie was picture perfect as the sniveling, weak and cowardly villain Gezza Mott. No wonder the Gamma Critic instantly projected himself on to this character who died miserable, alone and forsaken of all. Memories of him provoking only disgust.

The closest thing to problematic were the Japanese actors that Kazuaki Kiriya brought with him. They project the emotions that were required of them and do it well but it was pretty obvious that they had had to learn their dialog phonetically. That’s a drag on any performance.

The pacing that the bitch-monkey from Slant was moaning about only underscores how he has absolutely no business critiquing any film whatsoever. This was an Eastern story and those take their time to build. Instead of fire hosing the plot on to the screen like the shit being vomited out of the Hollywood sewage pipe, this is the kind of film that slowly and carefully paints a mural in subtle colors that are layered on. And yes, these colors are bleak. This is a film about warriors and their absolute devotion to the stoic virtues of Bushido (even if they weren’t calling it that).

It was surprising to me just how many of the details from the original story of the 47 Ronin dovetailed so nicely in building a great narrative. To include one of the younger members of the band marrying a builder’s daughter to gain inside access to Gezza Mott’s fortress.

However, the pace does pick up when it’s time for the climax. The battle scene is first- rate and brilliantly shot. The swordsmanship was excellent. And final duel between Raiden and Gezza Mott’s chief heavy, Ito is the best screen sword fight I’ve seen in ten years.**

This is a film that only cringingly, mewling and pathetic male feminists could hate. And hate it they do, the critics were stamping their soft little feet over this one.

Cataline Recommends with Enthusiasm.

** Woman? Who am I, kidding? She gave up on trying to arouse him years ago. It’s his right hand that goes to bed at night weeping in frustration over his flaccid sexual performance.

**In a western movie. I should do a top ten list of Asian sword fights of the last ten years.

2 thoughts on “Cataline Recommends: Last Knights…with Enthusiasm

  1. 14% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a pretty good endorsement. Thanks, I’ll have to check this out.

    In a comic adaptation I read about 10 years ago, Naganori was portrayed as a drunken hothead. He was tricked into assaulting the minister by his enemies, but the point remained that he didn’t “deserve” the loyalty of his retainers. But, as a great character once said, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”

    Like

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