The Last Duel (or the dentist)

Take the epic battle scenes in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and the ferocious dialogue of his Gladiator (2000) and replace them with a drab medieval soap opera about three long-drawn-out perspectives of a rape scene. You are left with a wretched, wearisome experience in the movie theatre. It’s the kind of experience that makes you long for a hot shower with flowery-scented soaps. Heck, even a visit with the dentist would have been more entertaining.

Enduring the dark subject matter is one thing. Enduring the one-toned performances (mulleted Matt Damon), oddly miscast ones (Ben Affleck), and the “acting” from a different planet (Harriet Walter, it’s time to choose a different profession, my dear) is another. Quasi-French/British accents distract from what is already an elementary screenplay that wants to be a 14th century Rashomon but also a Ridley Scott film with closeups of bludgeon blows to skulls. (I preferred the bludgeon blows.)

Flashes of captivation come from Adam Driver’s sickly twisted portrayal of a sex and greed lavished squire, but resentment for his character boils over in minutes. Then, it’s another 130 minutes to go, clocking in a total of 153 when 90 would have sufficed.

As if Hollywood felt compelled to reinterpret Straw Dogs (1971) to a medieval setting, we, the audience, are left asking ourselves why. Were we educated? No. Entertained? Nope. Better off having seen it? Let me take another shower or see the dentist before I answer that.

*1/2 out *****

I realize I’m in the minority here. The Last Duel scored a semi-decent 67 on Metacritic and holds a 3.8 on millennial-driven Letterboxd.

I’d love to hear what you thought! (Maybe I’ve been watching too much Disney these days.)

Best,

Reely Bernie

6 thoughts on “The Last Duel (or the dentist)

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  1. I’m not with you on this one; I hate rape scenes in films, but felt it was justified in this case. The female perspective in epic films is super-rare, and rape has been part of the story for decades. To see that story from a female POV is the point here, and worth making IMHO.

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    1. The female perspective and 14th-century MeToo statement are the only saving graces for me, but they come much too late. After suffering a trudge of wooden, miscast acting, a surface-level screenplay, and a horrid rape scene already, the second rape scene (and the following primary school court drama) made me regret sitting in the movie theatre for that long.

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  2. Yeah I think there are a lot of people out there with similar feelings. I haven’t seen it but I probably won’t, this doesn’t sound appealing at all. For one, I can’t stand rape scenes. I am on the fence as to whether vivid depictions thereof really serve a purpose other than to rile people up and be there for shock value. I’m unclear as how Ridley Scott portrays the act here, but from your review and a couple others that I have read (which weren’t positive either) he seems to labor over the fact. Fuck that. That’s not the kind of movie I want to watch. It’s a little disappointing that’s how this story is framed, but then again, with the main pitch being a drama revolving around the last legitimized trial-by-combat duel in France, it had to have some dark impetus for that action to happen. So. I guess a multi-pronged story about rape is what made sense. . . .

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    1. Gosh, it’s nice to hear you say this. I’m still scarred by that movie, and, like you, I don’t handle rape scenes well at all (and, I think that’s a good thing for people with moral compasses that want to stay “right” and good). Wind River, Straw Dogs, and The House on the Left are difficult for me to admire and acknowledge. (“Enjoying” them sounds sick.) I liked the idea of different perspectives and filtering them through a present-day/Me Too movement lens, but both visual portrayals of the rape were (intentionally or unintentionally) obvious “rapes” from any perspective and wretched to endure on a big screen. That said, I was equally sickened by the wooden and “off” acting and surface level screenplay. Hollywood egos and circle jerks. I won’t put up with it. Thanks again for saying something, Tom. Hope all is well. Seeing Dune this afternoon to cleanse my palette.

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