The Last Warrior, or The Scythian if you prefer, is earthy, old-fashioned entertainment of a type you don’t see too much of anymore.
You can rely on the Russians to do certain things rather well, such as meddling in elections and crafting proudly old-fashioned fantasy epics. The Last Warrior, or The Scythian, is such a film; a manly swashbuckling adventure about rough dudes in leather pursuing their womenfolk across brutal, tattered landscapes.
Hollywood isn’t the place for movies about the changing tribal climate of Central Eurasia – leave that to the Red State. In The Last Warrior, Russian nobility has become the new regime, forcing the Scythian warrior caste almost into exile. Slashing out a living as thieves and murderers, they descend on the local prince’s coterie and take off with the wife and child of his right-hand man, Lyutobor (Aleksey Faddeev). Finding an unlikely, untrustworthy ally in one of the Scythian assassins, Marten (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), who was left behind during the attack, Lyutobor traipses the muddy landscape in search of his missing loves and some big, burly bears to fight.
This is all courtesy of director and co-writer Rustam Mosafir, who is almost entirely unconcerned with any soft notions of historical, political or religious commentary. The Last Warrior is a film about blood and steel; the clang of swords, the squicky plunge of daggers – that kind of s**t. And thankfully the frequent action is captured with a sense of real style and clarity by cinematographer Dzmitry Karnachyk, who clearly understands the cardinal rule of action filmmaking: It’s only awesome if we can see it.
And see it we can. Brutal skirmishes are plentiful, and later ones incorporate a smattering of fantastical antics that make a nice counterpoint to the brawn. Marten, a slinky operator with face tattoos and a Mohawk, is particularly engaging; he makes a better lead that Lyutobor, who’s a fairly stock noble husband and father and knightly swordsman. I’ll take the morally dubious cutthroat sidekick any day of the week – probably why The Last Warrior was called The Scythian to begin with, I imagine.
It might be mostly about knocking heads together, but that isn’t to say that The Last Warrior has nothing else going for it. There’s some really solid design work here, both makeup and costuming, so much so that it’s almost a shame it all gets covered in gore. Almost.