DALLAS — THE LAST DUEL
It's been nearly 25 years since Matt Damon and Ben Affleck paired up to write and co-star in "Good Will Hunting." Now they're doing double duty again for the medieval drama, "The Last Duel." Why so long? They just never found the time, but when they came upon the book by Eric Jager, they decided to give it a go. Damon got his "The Martian" director Ridley Scott on board, and it was an epic in the making.
Based on a true story, Damon plays tough-as-nails 14th century French warrior Sir Jean de Carrouges. Having lost his wife and child to illness, he marries the young and beautiful Marguerite, played by "Killing Eve's" Jodie Comer. The union is as much to gain her dowry as it is to produce an heir. Ben Affleck plays a local lord, Pierre d'Alencon, who enjoys sex play almost as much as land grabs. Adam Driver plays dashing squire Jacques Le Gris, who Carrouges once saved in battle. Jaques becomes a favorite of Pierre's but steps way out of favor with Jean when he allegedly rapes Marguerite. The case cannot be settled in court, so it's decided that Jean will fight Jacques to the death, in the last court-sanctioned duel in France. But here's the clincher: Marguerite's life hangs in the balance, too.
The film is divided into three parts.. from the viewpoint of the husband, the accused and the wife (reminiscent of the 1950 Kurosawa movie "Rashomon). Matt and Ben wrote the mens' sections.. and brought in Oscar-nominated writer Nicole Holofcener to write the woman's. Clearly inspired by the "Me, Too" movement, this was a time when women were strictly chattel. In fact, Holofcener had the heavy lifting, here, because there was very little even written about Marguerite. Hers is also the best written and acted part of the film. Comer could be Oscar-nominated for standing up to convention which would have had her keep quiet. I would rather have seen Part III expanded, as the re-telling of the story tends to get redundant, and Marguerite's version is no doubt the truth.
Damon sports the worst mullet ever as Jean and renders himself completely charmless. Impossible, right? Driver, who's supposed to be the same age, looks much younger and has undeniable appeal. Affleck went platinum and is having the best time of any of them as the arrogant life of the party. There's one scene where Damon has to kneel down to him, and it can't help but elicit a giggle from the audience. And did they really use terms like "rape" and "pants" back then? The screenplay is contemporary in that way. Ridley Scott is completely in his wheelhouse, with vicious combat scenes and the duel itself which goes from a joust to hand-to-hand axe and knife combat. "The Last Duel" is a cut above, but I can't help but think it could have been even better.
(20th Century Studios/Disney. Rated R. Running Time 2 hrs 32 mins. In Theaters Only)
We thought Michael Myers was a gonner after 2018's "Halloween" sequel, 40 years after the original. Laurie Strode trapped and killed him in a fire, right? Well, if you've seen these movies... and there have been plenty of them... you know the masked killer never really goes away. So, he's back! And if the nemesis is back, so is the woman he haunts, played by the always wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis. "Halloween Kills" picks up right where "Halloween" left off, and is by the same director, David Gordon Green. Laurie was seriously injured, so while she's laid up in the hospital, an entire mob goes after Michael, led by townsperson Anthony Michael Hall with the mantra "evil dies tonight!" Of course, you can't keep our heroine down for long!
I was really looking forward to this movie, as Green did such a good job reinvigorating the franchise last time. But this is a case of one step forward, two steps back. Except for a funny scene with a targeted couple who bought Myers' old house, it's lost its 'wink' and reverts to a run-of-the-mill slasher movie. There's one more installment planned for next year. They say it's the last. It might finally be time to put ol' Michael Myers out to pasture, or wherever monstrous serial killers go.
(Universal Pictures. Rated R. Running Time 1 hour 46 mins. In Theaters and streaming on Peacock.)