Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Medieval Action Flop Getting A Second Chance On HBO Max

If you click a link and buy a product or service from a merchant, we may be paid an affiliate commission.

As TV shows like HBO's Game of Thrones and streaming hits like Netflix's The Witcher have proven, audiences love a well-done action epic set in a vaguely medieval European influenced world. However, for all the classics of the genre, there are also the entries that didn't exactly make their mark. Thanks to HBO Max's extensive streaming library, though, viewers have the opportunity to give a second chance to movies they may have overlooked in the past.

The 2015 film Last Knights is one of those movies that simply did not connect with critics or audiences when it first came out. Set in a stylized world reminiscent of medieval era Central Europe, the movie sees Clive Owen playing a knight commander named Raiden, who has pledged his allegiance to an aging lord named Bartok (Morgan Freeman). When Bartok takes an extraordinary step against the empire they all live under, Raiden finds both his loyalty and perseverance being tested to their extremes.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie only has a 16% approval rating, and Box Office Mojo reports that it made less than $2 million in theaters. But despite critics largely dismissing the film as a retread of tired tropes, there is actually a lot more going on under the hood of Last Knights than first meets the eye. From the real-life historic inspiration for the twist-filled narrative to the distinct visual style, the movie aimed to present a unique imagining of a well-loved genre.

There was a lot of ambition behind Last Knights

During an interview with Screen Anarchy, director Kazuaki Kiriya went deep on the influences and ideas behind Last Knights. The movie's plot follows the basic narrative of the 47 Ronin, a real-life story of samurai revenge from 18th century Japan that has gone on to inspire countless works of art (via Britannica), including at least one Keanu Reeves starring flop.

Kiriya hoped that taking elements from that narrative and placing them within the European-inspired setting would illuminate the universal elements of the story. He explained, "It's the spirit of samurai, but the spirit of samurai to me is knighthood in Europe and the concept is in America as well and Africa, China, everywhere, so that's what I tried to do."

In that interview, he also elaborated on some of the other unique aspects of the movie, including its purposefully international cast and its particular take on the medieval European aesthetic. The muted lighting and color palette of the film is one of its most distinctive elements, and Kiriya revealed, "My reference was Caravaggio the painter, we tried to mimic that."

Kiriya's bold vision was felt by the stars of the movie, as well. During an interview (via Trailer Addict), Freeman praised Kiriya's instincts, saying, "I have this thing for directors who know what they want, know when they've got it, and have big ears. This one fits the bill quite well."

Whether you end up thinking Last Knights is an underrated gem, or agreeing with the opinions of the critics, based on the ambition alone, it's a movie worth checking out for fans of the genre. And, hey, the fact that it's streaming on HBO Max makes it all that much easier to give it a second chance.