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The Last Shot

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: R (For Language and Some Sexual Content)

Running Time: 93 minutes

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, James Rebhorn, Tony Shalhoub

Written and Directed by: Jeff Nathanson

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Nathanson and Matthew Broderick, Inspired By Actual Events featurette, Robert Evans Presents, Deleted Scenes, Joan Cusack's Montage

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: May 10th, 2005

 

 

"What are you, some kind of good samaritan?"
"No, I'm a Hollywood producer."

Loosely based on actual events, "The Last Shot" is set in the 1980s and focuses on Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick), who &emdash; like many in Los Angeles &emdash; has a script and big dreams of becoming a filmmaker, all while being a ticket-taker at Mann's Chinese theater in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin) is a dog-loving FBI agent who is looking to move up in the ranks, and thinks if he nails the mob in a union scandal involving trucks, he'll finally get some bigger assignments. With that noted, Devine's idea for a sting involves becoming a Hollywood producer and making a movie &emdash; which happens to involve using Steven's sappy script, and making his dreams come true. Steven of course has no idea about any of this, and as the two get incredibly caught up in the filmmaking scheme, each really do have one last shot to make in order to get what they really want.

"The Last Shot" marks the directing debut of screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who is probably best known for his work on "Rush Hour 2" and more recent Spielberg films (such as "The Terminal" and "Catch Me If You Can" &emdash; plus rumor has it he's rewriting the fourth "Indiana Jones" feature). It's a decent debut from the talented writer, but it's far from being impressive. Much of the movie's problems stem from the script, which Nathanson also wrote. It's clear he was aiming for a studio comedy about the entertainment industry which could appeal to a mass audience (with that said, you don't need to know a lot about Hollywood to understand the movie &emdash; the movie plays a lot with clichés and lines you've probably already heard in better satires). Unfortunately though, "The Last Shot" opened in limited release in September 2004 and based on dismal box office, didn't get an expansion.

The script has some funny gags and decent running jokes, that may seem ludicrous but are wacky and worthy of some laughs &emdash; particularly the suicide of Joe's beloved dog. It's too bad the film's comic momentum is uneven, and the humor has been done in other movies before: the bitter bad guy with a messed-up physical appearance, Joe's FBI counterparts becoming obsessed with the film industry and those kind of things. And depending on your tastes, Nathanson's constant 80s references could be considered annoying. I assume this was done because it's hard to tell that this movie is supposed to take place in 1987, but the schtick of referencing people who were big in the 80s and who faded into obscurity gets pretty old. However, for what it's worth, the movie has cameos by Russell Means AND Pat Morita.

Most disappointing though is just how underdeveloped the story for "The Last Shot" is. When it comes to plot and development, this just may be one of the thinnest movies I've ever seen. Like the film's comedy, the story develops at an uneven pace. Much of the movie has Joe coaxing Steven into the shoot, and Joe becoming passionate about being a (fictitious) movie producer. It's a little hard to believe that this movie is supposed to be about a crime bust: it's hardly referenced, the antagonist barely does anything and everything in the narrative just comes together and then ends so easily. There's no tension to speak of whatsoever, and that is a bit surprising.

The movie also suffers from a rotating cast of supporting characters: Steven's dog-hating, wannabe actress girlfriend embodies "the user" archetype and there really isn't much of a purpose to Steven's brother, other than to symbolize the desperation and failure of the Hollywood dream. The brother character and his epiphany at the end are pretty pointless, and he was probably used just to put in a "twist" toward the end that isn't too surprising, and probably isn't needed either. With that said, "The Last Shot" is repetitive: what's said is already known, but it keeps finding ways to dissect the stereotypes of Hollywood. And speaking of twists, there's a second one during the climax involving Joe (or should I say anti-climax, because it's far from action packed and things just abruptly end). This second twist isn't a major shock either, and even if it does make sense, more probably could have been done with it.

A big asset to "The Last Shot" is its fabulous cast, who are all strong comedic actors and work well with Nathanson's script. Broderick once again plays a nebbish loser, but he really makes Steven a passionate guy and you can't help feel sorry that he's being taken for a ride. Toni Collette is quite amusing as a B-list actress, and it's a shame she's not used more and makes her first appearance halfway into the film. Other than that, those who are given billing more or less make extended cameos: Tony Shalhoub is quite fun as a second-tier mafioso; Calista Flockhart shows up as Steven's moody on-and-off girlfriend; Ray Liotta plays Joe's higher-up FBI agent brother; and the fabulous character actors Tim Blake Nelson (who's quite the hoot here) and James Rebhorn play Steven's brother and an FBI agent, respectively. Last but not least though, Alec Baldwin does stand out in this movie. He has a good rapport with Broderick, but shows a great knack for comedic timing. It probably helps that Baldwin's character is the most interesting, since he has to keep creating lies and eventually gets caught up in them, complete with a full desire to actually make Steven's movie.

Overall, "The Last Shot" has its moments and a good cast that makes it worthwhile, but unfortunately, the movie is really undercooked and doesn't live up to what it could have been. While there are some original moments to be found, the movie definitely could have been funnier, more satirical and develop some of the characters more. Still, the movie isn't a complete waste of time, and thanks to its short running time, it's worth a rental for those who have some desire to see it. It's sorta throw away entertainment, but that's perfectly fine &emdash; for what it is, the movie works.

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "The Last Shot" is rather good looking. Colors are well saturated, fleshtones look very nice and detail is more than adequate. Black levels are pretty strong, and there isn't any edge enhancement to speak of. For the most part, the picture quality is rather sharp but at times it can seem a tad bit grainy. More of a downer though is that there are edge halos and a bit of noise, but most distracting are the blemishes, dirt pieces and scratches that pop up on the print. Nonetheless though, the strong qualities do come out on this transfer.

 

The only track on the DVD is English Dolby Digital 5.1. Comedies aren't usually known for the best 5.1 mixes, and while plenty of this movie is kept to the front speakers, there are some particularly good moments for the rears that are discrete and use above-average panning &emdash; mainly, the FBI sting moments. Dialogue is quite clear and easy to hear, while Rolfe Kent's musical score comes out strongly through the channels. This is solid stuff overall and gets you into the movie's soundscape just enough, but don't expect too much action from that subwoofer. And in case you need them, there are English closed captions and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

 

Even though "The Last Shot" failed to capture an audience during its theatrical run, Disney has at least put up some good supplements. First off is an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Nathanson and Matthew Broderick. Nathanson sets the tone of the track right away by fielding Broderick a personal question, and things become funny and a bit jokey. Still, the two manage a decent discussion about the movie among the running jokes &emdash; lots of praise for the cast is abound as well as stories about making the movie, but Nathanson offers his own thoughts on what it was like to direct the film. Overall, the two are quite chatty and this is a strong commentary that achieves a good balance between fun and informative.

Inspired By Actual Events is a featurette that lasts about twelve-and-a-half minutes, and is the perfect kind of supplement that puts the movie in its proper perspective. This piece sets up the real FBI agent, Garland Schweickhardt, who did use two aspiring filmmakers named Dan Lewk and Gary Levy, to make a movie for a sting operation. The three meet after ten years in a Hollywood restaurant to catch up and talk about the events that really happened to them &emdash; those of course became the basis for "The Last Shot" (okay, so the movie is based on an article about these real-life events). The men are also interviewed separately, where they talk about their pasts and how things shaped up. The featurette, naturally, also boasts clips from "The Last Shot" but has stills from Dan and Gary, and footage from their own work. The clips from the movie make it a bit promotional, but overall, there is a ton of great stuff here and so much is covered in a limited amount of time. Viewers who are the least bit curious about the "true story" will get everything they need to know here. Quite excellent.

Robert Evans Presents is an interesting feature. Nathan introduces his original concept for the screenplay (having celebrities to narrate during the movie), but he realized that wouldn't pan out so he hired the legendary producer Robert Evans to do the filmed narrations. However, Nathanson realized his movie didn't need narrations so he cut the footage out. These Evans segments, totaling about two minutes, are presented in anamorphic widescreen and English Dolby Digital 5.1. The bits are pretty amusing, especially if you are a fan of the movie maverick. There is also a cool feature is that you can actually watch the movie with the narrations put in, as Nathanson intended.

There are also four Deleted Scenes, but three are actually extended. Nathanson introduces the cut material and gives good reasonings for his choices, complete with a dry but sense of humor (a lot of which is on the amusing commentary track). The material here is pretty good (especially the first scene with Broderick directing a children's play) and worth checking out for those who liked the movie. In total, these scenes with the intros total about ten minutes. Nathanson's introductions are in full screen, while the scenes are in two-channel sound and non-anamorphic widescreen. Also included (with a Nathanson introduction) is a Joan Cusack Montage lasting about a minute-and-a-half, where the famed comic actress shows off her ad-libbing skills. Like the deleted scenes, they are in non-anamorphic widescreen.

There's also the obligatory Sneak Peeks but no trailer for the movie, however, if you click around (hint: Arizona) you'll find a fun little easter egg.

 

"The Last Shot" is a pretty flawed, but it can be a fun comedy at times, especially for those into the movie industry. The DVD is pretty strong with a fine transfer, a durable 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and some really nice supplements that are quite entertaining and relevant. Chances are good you probably didn't see this one in theaters, so if you're interested, definitely give it a rent.