The Last Shot

It’s always a bad sign when the best scene in your movie is the opening title sequence.  Consider The Last Shot as a prime example.  Following a quick zoom on a name tag other names start appearing on various items related to the cinema.  Items like your ticket stub, your aisle seat, mustard and ketchup packets for your hot dog, a copy of that day’s newspaper that someone left on the floor, a bucket of popcorn, a coin someone dropped, the usher’s flashlight, even a patron with a tattoo, an incoming cell call and an arm cast.  If only this much attention was spent on the actual screenplay.
 
Alec Baldwin plays an FBI Agent desperate to nab some mobsters.  When we first meet him, he’s being threatened by a couple of them behind a screen at a Texas movie theatre.  It’s part of a sting operation but the guy’s a little nuts.  In order for his fellow agents (who are monitoring the situation closely in an unmarked vehicle thanks to a strategically placed hidden camera) to swoop in to make the arrests he has to give them the signal.  They have enough incriminating material to nab the two thugs but Baldwin waits until one of them follows through on their threat to cut off his fingers before giving them the go ahead.  We find out later that the one finger that did get severed required a three-day search before it was finally found.  Call me crazy but when an important part of your body is separated from you for that length of time, when it comes down to re-attaching it, wouldn’t that be rather impossible?  If doctors couldn’t successfully reattach Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen’s arm (because his body ultimately rejected it), which didn’t go missing for 72 hours, how could a long detached digit fare better in the operating room?
 
At any event, when Baldwin returns home he’s shocked to discover that his beloved dog, Sasha, has drowned in his jacuzzi.  An apparent suicide due to excessive loneliness, claims his maid.  Really?  Well, at least it wasn’t an overdose or a hanging.  That wouldn’t have been believable.
 
Ray Liotta plays Baldwin’s superior.  He reassigns him to Providence, Rhode Island where his next target is Tony Shalhoub, who is miscast as a distant cousin of John Gotti.  (Quick aside.  This story is based on real events that happened in the mid-80s.)  Shalhoub, like Chili Palmer in Get Shorty, would love to work in the movie business.  In the meantime, he’s busy illegally earning a cut from the local Teamsters union.
 
Baldwin has an idea on how to nab him.  He’ll pretend to be a big shot Hollywood producer looking to make a film in Rhode Island.  But he needs a screenplay first.
 
Enter Matthew Broderick.  He’s a bearded usher at Mann’s Chinese Theatre who has been trying for 10 years to get someone interested in a screenplay he co-wrote with his brother, Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), about their dead sister.  Nelson gave up years ago.  Three times a day, he plays the bad guy at a Bonanza tourist attraction (The Ponderosa, naturally) where he gets shot dead by their father who portrays Ben Cartwright.  He’s a miserable guy.
 
Broderick lives next to a Kennel Club but not just any Kennel Club, it’s a celebrity Kennel Club!  His girlfriend, the always sexy Calista Flockhart, has reached her breaking point.  In the middle of sex, she can’t take the barking from the caged dogs and proceeds to go outside and curse them all out.  Lovely.  She ends up dumping the aspiring auteur.  Temporarily.
 
Eventually, Broderick and Baldwin connect.  Is it just me or shouldn’t Broderick be just a teensy weensy bit suspicious of Baldwin’s enthusiasm for Arizona, the name of his pretentious script?  After 10 years of failure, wouldn’t you be a little bitter?  Maybe a little jaded and cynical?  Broderick never stops being positive and it’s quite sickening.  He’s just not a credible character.
 
He’s also not very bright.  Baldwin’s character’s name in the film is Joe Devine but for this assignment he changes it to Joe Diamond.  Unfortunately, one of his fellow agents (Ian Gomez) discovers an ad in the Yellow Pages for a plumber with that name.  So, it’s decided that he needs a new surname even though he’s already introduced himself to Broderick as Joe Diamond.  During a get-together with the people who will form the crew during Arizona’s shoot, Baldwin suddenly tells him that his name is actually Joe Wells and that it’s always been Joe Wells!  Broderick never considers this a serious problem.  (Question:  what does it matter if Baldwin’s fake undercover name is the same as some plumber?  Can’t there be two Joe Diamonds in the same state?  Sorry, that was two questions.)
 
Although he complains about having to shoot his desert tearjerker in Rhode Island (don’t ask about a plot synopsis), he doesn’t exactly insist on moving the shoot to the right state.  He’s so desperate he’s willing to make incredibly lame compromises in order to get the damn thing completed.  I’m just not buying it.
 
But the silly fool is completely unaware that the movie isn’t supposed to be made, it’s all a scam to catch Shalhoub.  Baldwin, however, gets caught up in the whole operation and is determined to make this stupid film so that he can go higher up the mafia food chain and possibly nail Gotti.  He pleads with his superiors to let him proceed with casting.  Soon, they’re giving him notes on fixing the script.  They suggest a motorcycle chase.
 
Did I mention that all of this is played for laughs?
 
I first heard about The Last Shot on July 28, 2004.  There was a trailer for it when I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 at the Silvercity in Ancaster.  Apparently, it never played in Canadian theatres.  In America, it opened on four screens in September that year.  At its peak, it was exhibited on 40.  Its total domestic box office take:  just under half a million.
 
Having now screened the movie, I can understand why.  This might be the worst flick about filmmaking I’ve ever seen.  I laughed a grand total of 4 times.  That’s it.  Honestly, it’s hard to find humour in a movie this dark and depressing.  There are jokes about murder attempts, threats of violence, actual violence, suicide, abortion and my personal favourite, peeing at a restaurant table.  That’s quite the talent, Toni Collette.  (She plays a wacked-out, washed up actress hoping Arizona will usher in her comeback.)  Even an inside joke about Disney bombs.  Furthermore, not one female here is normal.  Collette’s out of her mind, Joan Cusack is a supremely bitchy producer (although I did laugh at one of her quips) and Flockhart spends much of her time screaming her head off at Broderick and those damn dogs.  And what’s the deal with her threat to do gangbangs?
 
We don’t care about any of these characters, the almost completely unfunny situation and, most especially, the secret that haunts Matthew Broderick regarding the inspiration for his script.  Not only that, the pacing is far too slow and sluggish.  This movie needs energy big time.  Maybe if everyone got addicted to Red Bull during the shoot.  The results couldn’t be any worse.  When Flockhart flips out against those canines at the Kennel you wonder if her rage is coming from a different place, that part of her that wonders why she agreed, along with everybody else here, to participate in this mess. 
 
The Last Shot completely wastes its terrific cast who you’ve definitely seen in better movies.  Was the screenplay they read far different than the one used for shooting?  Paging Mr. Monk.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, July 14, 2008
12:32 a.m.
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Published in: on July 14, 2008 at 12:32 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I can’t believe you remembered the trailer for that movie before seeing Fahrenheit 9/11!!! You should check out the opening credits for Napoleon Dynamite. They put the names of everybody on common everyday items, like chapstick and mustard, with a White Stripes song playing over it. Pretty cool. I didn’t know until recently that there are companies out there that ONLY do start and end credits. It’s like an entire genre of its’ own. You should do a Batman Begins review…

  2. It’s the only trailer I remember from that day.  Napoleon is on my long list of titles to see.  I tried writing something for Batman Begins but just couldn’t put it together.  I have an old Batman (1989) review lying around that I may rework for the site.  If that happens, I’ll definitely throw in some thoughts about Begins.


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