As we speak Ridley Scott‘s The Last Duel (20th Century Studios, 10.15) has a failing (60%) grade on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Plus Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney has called it “an uneven Middle Ages #MeToo epic.” And Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman has described it as “sort of medieval, anachronistic, and more than a bit concocted.”
From Gleiberman’s 9.10 Variety review: “The plot turns on an act of sexual assault, and in the second segment the movie flirts, however briefly, with treating that act the way that Kurosawa’s Rashomon did: with supreme ambiguity.
“But that would be a dicey thing to do in our era, so the film backs off from any ambiguity. Morally, that leaves it in good standing. But dramatically, it leaves it sort of just sitting there.
“We get de Carrouges’ [i.e., Matt Damon‘s] version of the events. Then we get Le Gris’ [Adam Driver‘s], which is just different enough to tease us. Then we get Marguerite’s [i.e., Jodie Comer], which matches up entirely with de Carougges’. By then you feel the wind going out of the movie’s sails.
“There are entertaining bits throughout. Ben Affleck plays the count as a supercilious, foul-mouthed libertine who likes to bed four women at once, and you feel how much fun the actor is having playing someone this piggish in his arrogance. Jodie Comer makes her mark, holding the screen with a calm fire. And though it’s occasionally hard to distinguish the intentional from the unintentional awkwardness in Damon’s performance, it’s amusing to see him stray so willfully out of his comfort zone.”
When Damon was co-writing and then acting in The Last Duel, he probably wasn’t anticipating that a Variety critic would describe his performance as partly “amusing.”
Gleiberman: “The climactic duel, a re-enactment of the last one ever sanctioned in France, is certainly a slash-to-the-death rouser in that Gladiator-in-chain-mail way.”