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Home > Last Looks (2021): A Review

Last Looks (2021): A Review

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A Scruffy and Stimulating Neo-Noir That Becomes Too Clean-Cut

In the long lineage of Los Angeles film noir, the genre works to define the urban landscape of the city and – to an even greater extent – a national outlook; it represents how shadowy machinations and evil-doers toil in the dark to shape the scenery of this smog-riddled city. From Double Indemnity to Chinatown to No Country for Old Men, there have been a lot of incarnations and interpretations of this genre. Adapted from Howard Michael Gould’s book of the same name, Last Looks is another whodunit mystery that comes with the bells and whistles of a revisionist noir, but its protagonist is the gem that makes this film shine. However, what potential the film could have had is squandered as the formulaic plot and tedious, oftentimes irritating, characters dull the glimmer of a possible standout.

Same Story, Different Narrator

A disgraced cop haunted by his past, a man convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, and a city that’s rotten to the core. Directed by Tim Kirkby (Action Point), Last Looks stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) as the bike-riding gumshoe, Charlie Waldo. Waldo resides in a hilltop trailer above LA and adheres to a minimalist lifestyle possessing only 100 items. When his ex-flame, private investigator Lorena (Morena Baccarin), asks for help investigating a high-profile murder which sees TV actor Alastair Pinch (Mel Gibson) standing accused of murdering his wife. Incidentally, Pinch admits he was too drunk on the night and remembers nothing. Waldo is reluctant to help until Lorena’s disappearance and a few disgruntled visitors pull him back to the city he once rejected.

The opening fifteen minutes appear promising. Hunnam performs the role of Waldo deftly and with charisma as he carries out his environmentally conscious life. His rustic routines play before us in a meditative ambiance as climate warnings come from his radio. As Lorena spoils the harmony of Waldo’s life and he braves his way back to LA, so too does the movie begin its slow descent into mediocrity and nothingness.

Last Looks Mid Image

Somebody, Please Muzzle Mel

From the onset of Waldo’s journey, there begins the slow trickle of the eclectic gaggle of characters that continue to grow in number to the film’s detriment. Goon squads, slimy executives, and bustling attorneys all paint a Hollywood of yesteryear and create some good comedic moments. However, much of what is present feels underutilized, excessive, or lacking depth. Gibson’s Pinch is a character that exemplifies all of the aforementioned. For some inexplicable reason, Mel Gibson was cast to play the alcoholic English actor with an exaggerated accent that recites Shakespeare and is the star of the show Johnnie’s Bench. Quickly this novel turns from amusing and quaint to simply insufferable and glib. Ironically, his Southern accent for his Colonel Sanders-esque judge character is far more convincing and tolerable to listen to. It’s incredibly infuriating when actors like Baccarin and Dominic Monaghan are heavily underused. Even Waldo, the film’s strong point, turns from idiosyncratic to a bland, generic detective undergoing banal development.

To the observant viewer, the mystery is a smoking gun visible a mile away – one might think that is a misdirect, but the film sticks to its gun and crosses the line with a self-satisfied thud. While the problem-solving and path of inquiry are more effective as opposed to the solution to the puzzle, what starts as a chaotic descent in the first half spirals into mundanity in the latter. Themes of environmentalism and decadence soon fade into the background, and instead, all that is left is a plot that overstays its welcome and doesn’t justify its length.

A Bloodless Crime

Part of Last Looks feels like a vintage noir with stylistic touches: its use of light and shadow, the dame with the case, the characters’ trappings, and even the Venetian blinds. But then some of the edgier musical choices don’t jive well with the other aspects of this movie or even the other tracks. It’s a film in limbo, neither a satisfying homage to the classics nor a Hollywood crime-drama with its own robust and defined voice.

The bottom line, Last Looks sacrifices the promise of its opener for a bog-standard noir affair. It lacks the humor of something like The Nice Guys and the depth of a movie like The Long Goodbye. Nods to the genre only remind the audience that they could be watching those far better films. All of the moving parts of the film work, but nothing cracks the surface and is allowed to shine. By the film’s midpoint, it just decides to roll along as if it were the tracks of a simple roller coaster ride. The film has its ups and downs, but nothing stimulating and worth a second go. Who knows, maybe the book is better. 

Last Looks 2021 RLJE Films Official Trailer

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Adam Z. Matthews
Adam Matthews is a writer at heart who wants to share his love of the peculiar and strange with others. Having completed an MFA in Creative Writing from the American College Dublin and an M.Phil in Screenwriting from Trinity College Dublin, he hopes to carve a path to making storytelling his career. If he were to be reincarnated, he would want to be a 1940s LA private investigator.