Directed by Rustam Mosafir. Starring Aleksey Fadeev, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Yuriy Tsurilo, Ismaylova Vasilisa. Historical fantasy, Russia, 101 mins, cert 18.

Released in the U.K. on DVD by 4Digital Media on 20th August 2018.


Hailing from Russia, The Last Warrior is a historical potboiler that aims to capture and mix the aesthetics of television shows such as Vikings and Game Of Thrones, hoping to capture that mix of otherworldly history, violence and fantastical elements that both shows trade in. The result here, however, is a less successful mish mash wherein the more fantastical elements stick out and destroy the already flimsy foundation the film has built itself on.


    This is a film that at times seems afraid of its own genre. So intent on concentrating on the more fantastical aspects at the expense of the historical ones it stumbles right out of the gate by failing to tell a cohesive or exciting story from beginning to end. Mostly what you have here is a buddy movie detailing the quest of Lyutabor, Aleksey Fadeev, as he tries to rescue his kidnapped wife and child from a Scythian tribe. Helping him on his quest is Marten, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, a captured prisoner from the tribe who has his own enemies within his fellow tribesmen. Their journey takes them to many locations where they meet other tribes, fight them and then move on to another forest or hillside where they meet another tribe and challenge them.


    One of the few positives The Last Warrior has is an otherworldly atmosphere that it captures well on its low to medium budget. Though repetitive in its use of meeting tribes as near video game level challenges to move the plot along, each tribe whether they be Scythian, Mongol or forest people, the film's term not mine, are visually striking and so different from each other yet cohesive enough to create a world that is enticing and interesting. As is the sense of location. This is a windswept and drizzly environment that manages to show how hardscrabble and tough it must have been to live in such times and it is captured nicely by the photography of Dzmitry Karnachyk.


    Sadly, the story of the film fails on many levels. Whether it is a muddled plot that manages to keep overcomplicating itself or a lack of interesting characters who lack all but the most rudimentary and basic characteristics that can be found in your bog-standard DTV action movie. The action also fails to excite here, attempts are made to show fight scenes in long takes, but apparent edits are poorly hidden by shaky camera work and numerous instances of the camera zooming in and out of characters backs.


    It is in one of these fight scenes where the film spectacularly derails itself by fully embracing the more fantastical elements of mythology and fantasy that has only been alluded to up until then. Without spoiling it, I can only say that it primarily involves a character in what the gamers among you would refer to as “levelling up.” That such a silly notion goes by here without an ounce of humour or even self-awareness is bad enough but adding insult to injury is the inclusion of a frankly bizarre soundtrack. The groaning and grunting on audible display here would not be out of place in the likes of a Vic Reeves show but to apply it to a historical action piece shows serious misjudgement on the director’s part.


    There is nothing really to recommend here. There are better examples of foreign historical/action movies out there. However, this is one of those ones that you see on the shelf of your supermarket one week in the DVD and CD section and then completely forget about as you turn into the next aisle.


Iain MacLeod.







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