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Case Number 05129: Small Claims Court

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The Last Warrior (1989)

Pathfinder // 1989 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // September 3rd, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Erick Harper says this WWII film is like Father Goose, only with less booze, fewer schoolgirls, and more swordfighting.

The Charge

Two men. Two cultures. Two lives.

The Case

The Last Warrior presents a contrived situation that boils World War II down to a conflict between two men and their respective cultures. Grainy stock footage and an almost inaudible voiceover narration during the opening credits inform us, as if we cared, that the time is the spring of 1945 and that the Japanese battleship Yamato is in desperate need for repair and seeking an island where she can drop anchor safe from allied attacks.

Hiding on the island they choose is Gibb (Gary Graham, Alien Nation), an American coast watcher assigned to keep tabs on any enemy activity in the area. To date there hasn't been much for him to do but hang out like a 1940s version of Jimmy Buffett and boff the occasional native girl. There is also a small mission on the island; the priest and nuns, the only other westerners to be found on the island, view Gibb with disapproval and suspicion. In their eyes, his very presence is an unnecessary risk that could bring the Japanese down on them at any minute. His slovenly ways and habit of corrupting native women don't impress them much either.

When an improbably small squad of Japanese marines, attracted by Gibb's covert radio signals, land on the island, Gibb goes into Rambo mode. The Japanese take a few potshots at him, round up the other westerners on the island, and depart the scene. They leave behind a small detachment of marines to find Gibb and his radio. Also remaining behind is Katherine (Maria Holvöe, Worth Winning, Willow), a novice who escaped the notice of the Japanese search party and who conveniently has not yet taken her vows as a nun.

Oh, let's cut to the chase, shall we? Gibb and Katherine hide out on the island and pick off the Japanese one by one until there is only one left. After a time, Gibb finds himself at the mercy of the last Japanese marine (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Planet of the Apes (2000), Pearl Harbor). Rather than simply killing Gibb and getting on with the war, he has the brilliant idea to teach him how to fight with a samurai sword. They wind up fighting each other at the end. Oh yeah, and the battleship Yamato? It doesn't have a darn thing to do with the plot of the movie, other than providing the Americans a reason to leave Gibb on the island rather than rescuing him, just in case the ship were to turn up there.

So, there we have it. World War II, the defining event of the 20th century, reduced to a clash of cultures and two guys playing cat and mouse on an island in the middle of nowhere, a sort of Enemy Mine in the South Pacific, only without the friendly parts. The script is lackluster, the acting nothing special. One exception would be Tagawa, who brings some frightening intensity and conflict to his character, the Japanese marine. The direction is pretty good; writer-director Martin Wragge at least knows how to build some good suspense in a scene, and he uses his creepy locations such as the rusting, burned out hulk of a ship in the harbor, to quite nice effect. Still, for a movie that claims as its primary selling point "exciting wartime drama packed with martial arts swordfighting action," there is relatively little action and quite a bit of waiting around for something—anything—to happen. For a movie that only runs 94 minutes, The Last Warrior certainly feels a lot longer, and I don't mean that as a compliment.

Audio is remarkably bad on this disc. Background sounds and musical cues come through relatively clearly, but dialogue is often muffled and unintelligible. Overall the audio has a weak, congested sound to it. Picture quality is somewhat better than expected, but not great. Colors come through as lifelike and natural, if a bit muted. Fine details and textures are hopelessly soft, and shadowed areas have poor definition. The only special feature on this disc is a trailer.

All told, The Last Warrior is a competent but mostly uninteresting exercise in low-budget filmmaking, with a clichéd premise and weak script but decent directorial execution.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Pathfinder
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action
• Drama
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


• IMDb

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