Movie Review: An Award winning short becomes a slow and somber feature — “Last Night in Rozzie”

Last Night in Rozzie” is a “scars and crimes of childhood” revisited drama, a “Sleepers” or “Mystic River” without cops or an investigation, then or now.

Take away those elements and this Boston (Roslindale) tale is reduced to its most basic — guilt, what you “owe” somebody. And in this case, those “basics” are pedestrian and dull.

Neil Brown, Jr. of TV’s “Insecure” and “Seal Team” stars as Ronnie Russo, a New York corporate attorney who gets the call from the last guy he expected to hear from. He never kept in touch with Joey Donovan. And now the guy on the other end of the phone — coughing, joking and busting his balls — is dying.

Something about their past let’s Donovan guilt Russo into ditching a pressing piece of work, hopping into his Tesla and dashing north. Flashbacks point to a childhood trauma, Russo’s last day in Roslindale — “Rozzie” — that last Little League game, before he moved away.

Donavan (Jeremy Sisto, currently on TV’s “F.B.I.”) smiles a lot for a guy ending his life in a hospital, cracks jokes between tubercular coughs and fills his old friend in. Yeah, I was married. Yes, I’m a father. And the payoff, the reason he’s summoned him to Boston?

“She won’t let me see my son.” Attorney Ronnie Russo needs to fix that. Donovan seals the deal with a suggestion of their history, an implied “You owe me” and maybe the movie’s best line.

“You were my last call.”

The cunning, work-stressed attorney decides the best way to go about this isn’t getting to the real reason his former crush, Donovan’s former wife, keeps Donovan from their son. No “direct approach” for Russo. He’d rather stake her (Nicky Whelan) out, “accidentally” meet her at the old ballfield, ask for dates, etc. He needs coaching on that from the dying man.

“We don’t have a lotta time.”

“No. That’s true.”

What’s implied is that that old crush never died. That’s why Russo lies to Patti about the “chance meeting,” why he tries too hard to make a great impression (stupidly-expensive Green Monster tickets to a Red Sox game), why a grown-ass New York lawyer takes leave of his senses and goes about this “I just wanna see my son” request in the most time-consuming, doomed-to-backfire way.

As with most films on this sort of subject, the flashbacks have most of the pathos and action. Young Donovan (Ryan Canale) was a promising pitcher, and a bit of a bully, with the scars on his arms that remind us “bullies are made” by bad parenting, as often as not. Young Ronnie Russo was in his thrall.

But there’s not much suspense to what happened then or what will happen in the present. The slack pacing and generally flat performances rob “Last Night” of any urgency and lower the stakes.

The leads range from charismatic to merely adequate, which doesn’t help.

Director Sean Gannet and screenwriter Ryan McDonaugh expanded their short film of the same title (recasting it, etc.) in adapting this. All they managed to do was water it down and add filler, lose any local color (none of the adult leads do anything like a Boston accent) and turn this “Last Night” into nothing the least bit memorable.

Rating: unrated, violence, profanity

Cast: Neil Brown Jr., Nicky Whelan, Ryan Canale, Greyson Cage and Jeremy Sisto.

Credits: Directed by Sean Gannet, scripted by Ryan McDonaugh. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:20

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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