Right from the off, Rustam Mosafir’s medieval action movie does things a little differently. From starting with the villains of the film to snarling burly men punching each other’s faces off (yep), The Last Warrior somehow balances the far-fetched with the entertaining just enough to make it watchable, albeit well below the level it should be.
Lyutobor (Aleksey Faddeev), a loyal subject to his Lord and really undeserving of all the crap that gets sent his way, must rescue his wife and newborn son from kidnappers. His guide is a captured Scythian, Marten (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), who comes from a tribe of blood-worshipping murderers. To make matters worse, Lyutobor is framed for poisoning Lord Oleg (Yuriy Tsurilo) so must also escape those he could once call allies.
The interplay between Lyutobor and Marten is tense, unpredictable and very engaging. The film doesn’t really get into its stride until they meet, and the trust forged between the two is as fragile as glass. Mosafir takes his time to make sure that this development makes sense, and that it bears real consequences for how the film unfolds. Sadly, it is one of few fleshed out relationships in the film. The script struggles to give several characters the screen time and emphasis they are screaming out for. Lyutobor’s wife in particular feels like little more than a plot device.
Mind you, this is no film for talking. The Last Warrior is about fighting. The violence is brutishly realised on every occasion and only gets more intense as time goes on. You will learn new ways that humans can bleed, and many characters make a hobby of cutting their own hands open. The fight scenes are a flurry of intense sword scrapes that are at their best very impressive, and the heroes take more blows than many modern action movies allow.
Where the movie lets itself down is when Lyutobor becomes ‘the beast’, basically turning him into an invincible snarling bear of a bloke. The editing whenever this happens is not what it needs to be - it’s ragged, overdone and a bit of a joke. A sequence about an hour in involving a forest tribe and an execution pit ruins your enjoyment of the movie, almost irreversibly. You struggle to take everything else seriously after Mosafir introduces his 8-bit version of James McAvoy from Split, despite efforts to inject a bit more realism afterwards.
It’s a shame, because the more down-to-earth battles and interactions are really engaging. This is a strong story at its core, with only a few complaints aside the big one. This is one of those films though where a few scenes degrade the entire spectacle.
THE LAST WARRIOR (AKA THE SCYTHIAN) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: RUSTAM MOSAFIR / SCREENPLAY: RUSTAM MOSAFIR, VADIM GOLOVANOV / STARRING: ALEKSEY FADDEEV, ALEKSANDR KUZNETSOV, YURIY TSURILO, IZMAYLOVA VASILISA, VITALY KRAVCHENKO / RELEASE DATE: 20TH AUGUST 2018