Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Karl Gajdusek
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Michael Pitt, Anna Brewster
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi / Thriller
In the not-too-distant future, as a final response to terrorism and crime, the US Government plans to broadcast a signal making it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit unlawful acts. In the meantime, a trio plan the heist of the century just before the signal becomes active and use the money to get across the boarder to Canada.
A very, very long time ago whilst studying economics at school I was first introduced to the phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, and that is the phrase that was at the forefront of my mind all the way through watching Netflix’s latest release The Last Days of American Crime – it does not have the catchiest of titles either! In its bloated 150-minute running time the film is a strange hybrid of a movie that tries at various points in its messy and uneven narrative to be sci-fi, heist and action thriller. I have no knowledge of the original graphic novel, so cannot comment on how that may have successfully or not combined those individual elements, but though they all admittedly have some potentially interesting moments. 150 minutes should in theory be ample time for a film to successfully tackle multiple themes and subplots, but it is almost impressive just how spectacularly Karl Gajdusek’s script fails to do this. The result is a completely cacophonous narrative that is unnecessarily challenging and a genuinely unpleasant and unrewarding viewing experience – then of course when the film is directed by Olivier Megaton that is not really a surprise, and despite it being 6 years since his last film (the dreadful Taken 3) he appears to have not changed or learnt anything.
Perhaps ‘identity crisis’ may be a more appropriate phrase than ‘jack of all trades’, as the film really doesn’t know what genre it wants to be and so really struggles to mould together it’s various elements. The story will briefly focus on what would appear at the time to be a very important part of the narrative, and then this will not be mentioned at all and either then suddenly comes back at a later point, or even not at all! There are sometimes pointless, overlong scenes that go nowhere, while others are overstuffed with exposition, and sometimes the narrative takes an extremely casual approach with what is potentially quite crucial or interesting information – which is both baffling and frustrating. There are also some key aspects that drive the characters and the narrative that are never truly explained, such as why the currency is changing and why this new American currency would even be useful in Canada by someone who is a wanted criminal. As a narrative, The Last Days of American Crime has all of the hallmarks of a director and writer completely losing control of their film – and the result could indeed be described as a crime against cinema!
As a I previously stated, there are actually some potentially interesting elements of the plot, and this only serves to make the whole experience even more infuriating. The whole notion of a signal that forces all of those about to commit an unlawful act to suddenly freeze produces some potentially interesting ideas or themes about morality and freedom. There is also the fact that all of those in charge with implementing the law are to be surplus to requirements, and does it stop corruption within the ranks of the law? Indeed, can this signal be beaten?
Though police officers are given the opportunity to have some kind of chip implanted (though very little is explained about what this chip does or indeed what it stops / allows a person from to doing / to do), including Sharlto Copley’s police officer. As Copley is a reasonably big name I think we would all be forgiven for expecting his character to have some kind of substantial role in the story and his own individual subplot that has an element of substance, but though he is involved in the film’s climax, it is a completely pointless and underused character. While, all of those potentially interesting elements just may as well not exist. Likewise, the heist itself is discussed within the first 30 minutes but doesn’t really commence until 2 hours in – even this seems to be forgotten about at times.
All of the film’s three main protagonists all have potentially interesting stories, but again these are only used at the narrative’s convenience and suddenly forgotten about for extended periods of time. Once again despite us having to spend 150 minutes with these three characters they are underdeveloped, forgettable and impossible to care about or route for. This then does lead to the narrative tying itself up in knots as we have characters seeking revenge for deaths of family members or desperate to try and prevent deaths of family members, or indeed trying seek revenge on family members. There are corrupt FBI agents, all kinds of crazed, psychopathic henchman to contend with and of course a broken, crime-ridden society – but none of it fits together at all. The whole thing is delivered in a very serious tone, but without any actual genuine substance on offer, it doesn’t matter what tone the film goes for as the whole thing is unwatchable either way!
This being a film directed by Oliver Megaton there are inevitably action sequences, and these are over the top, often pointlessly overlong, unnecessarily violent and poorly put together. It is a truly arduous test of patience of the viewer to even watch the film until that point, but once the ‘heist’ itself gets going the whole thing is a complete anti-climax devoid of any tension or intrigue as it is just impossible to care about any element of the narrative and any character involved in it. The Last American Crime is not only a waste of some potentially interesting ideas and concepts but is also a complete waste of the viewers time.
An absolute mess of a film that is very poorly written and directed; The Last American Crime is a genuinely unpleasant and gruelling viewing experience, and the biggest crime of all is that this detritus of a film ever got released.
At time of writing The Last American Crime is available to stream on Netflix.