Lionsgate // 2011 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // December 14th, 2012
The fate of man lies in the hands of one warrior.
On the desert planet Aradius, where humans have stripped the planet of its most precious resources, the indigenous population, a humanoid race known as the Arid, live under the tyrannical rule of Griffin (Julian Sands, Blood and Bone). Griffin has successfully defeated all attempts to remove him from power. In a attempt to further cement his position, instructs his forces to hunt down and kill the rebel leader known as Moss (Angus Macfayden, Equilibrium). For his part, Moss believes his people's savior will soon come to end Griffin's reign; when he stumbles across Hirokin (Wes Bentley, The Hunger Games), Moss thinks he has found his man. Hirokin is bursting with rage, having seen his family murdered by Griffin, but under Moss' tutelage, must choose between revenge and freeing his people.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then George Lucas and James Cameron should be feeling pretty good about themselves right now, as any way you shake it, writer-director Alejo Mo-Sun's Hirokin: The Last Samurai is massively indebted to Star Wars and Avatar.
Now, it would be remiss of me to suggest either Lucas or Cameron's films were true originals -- Lucas was massively influenced by the works of Kurosawa (The Hidden Fortress), for example, whilst Avatar is clearly Cameron's love letter to Ferngully: The Last Rainforest -- but at least they masked their inspiration behind some ideas of their own. In sharp contrast, Mo-Sun wears his influences for all to see, while failing to add a single spark of originality. Where Star Wars has "The Force," Hirokin has "The Way"; where Avatar had the precious mineral Unobtanium, and a threatened indigenous people called N'avi, Hirokin has the mineral Aradium (which makes large metal objects float), and a threatened race called the Arid. Hardly subtle, but this could have been forgiven had Hirokin: The Last Samurai not been such a bore.
At 105 minutes no one could accuse Hirokin: The Last Samurai of being a particularly long film, but thanks to its pedestrian pacing -- highlighted by a protracted second act -- it's difficult to maintain interest. The story is too slight to really justify a running time over 80 minutes, and attempts at adding depth to the story result in unintentional laughs. Suffering the most from some of the film's more pretentious leanings is Angus Macfayden, who plays rebel leader Moss. Clearly an attempt at crossing Obi-Wan Kinobe (Star Wars) with Morpheus (The Matrix), Moss' dialogue mostly consists of discussing how Hirokin must embrace "The Way" if he is to become "The One." If you thought Morpheus spouted some claptrap in The Matrix Reloaded, just wait until Moss goes off on one of his philosophical ramblings.
On rare occasions, Hirokin: The Last Samurai works up a sweat and introduces a little action in an attempt to liven up proceedings. Unfortunately the sword fights that ensue are poorly choreographed, and an apparent lack of training leaves the actors spinning around clumsily like a bunch of three-year-olds in the middle of a sugar rush. One can only assume that Hirokin is the last Samurai as his brethren were so inept.
Visually at least, Hirokin scores well. The arid desert, if not an original setting for a sci-fi adventure, provides some strong imagery. Costume designs are hardly innovative, but they are a step above most low-budget sci-fi releases, while the occasional use of CGI is well-implemented. Special praise should also be reserved for John Paesano, whose original score for the film is far and away the most accomplished element of the production. Sadly, the Arid are an especially poor example of an alien race, suggesting little thought was put into their creation. The sole difference between a human and an Arid is that the Arid have veins over the palm of their hands. Hardly exciting, is it?
The lead cast members are mostly made up of familiar faces. Wes Bentley may not completely convince as the action hero, but then Hirokin isn't exactly a well-written role. Angus Macfayden, as already mentioned, suffers thanks to a hodgepodge of a role, but still puts in a commendable effort. Clearly having the most fun, however, is Julian Sands. Here is a guy who clearly loves playing a rogue, and his character, Griffin, offers him plenty of chances to do just that.
Lionsgate's DVD release of Hirokin: The Last Samurai boasts a clean transfer, packed with detail. The colorful picture is sharp, and sports excellent black levels. The 5.1 soundtrack also scores highly, delivering as it does clear dialogue and effects. The DVD contains a short making-of featurette, "Creating Aradius," along with a featurette focusing on the fight choreography. Finally a selection of deleted scenes is included.
Hirokin: The Last Samurai fails to capitalize on a decent cast and above average production values thanks to its poorly conceived script. It's impossible to see beyond the myriad of influences that inspired Mo-Sun's film, and even more difficult to see why anyone would ever choose to watch Hirokin over one of them.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes