When it comes to gumshoe cinema, I have a pretty high tolerance for the cornucopia of cliches that are the bread of butter of of the genre. “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Rogue’s Gallery,” anything based on a Raymond Chandler novel or sending up “Chandleresque” and I’m in, at least for a while.
“Last Looks” is such a film, but one with baggage that may not have even crossed the mind of TV and film screenwriter Howard Michael Gould (“Cybil,” “Home Improvement,” “The Jeff Foxworthy Show,” “Mr. 3000”) when he wrote the novel that he later turned into a screenplay.
It’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dramedy about a disgraced cop reluctantly-recruited to clear a TV star, a plummy-voiced Master Thespian who is A) foreign, B) a “black-out drunk” and C) accused of murdering his wife.
It stars Charlie Hunnam as a dropped-out/off-the-grid, hipster survivalist beardo who works the case from the seat of an ’80s vintage 10-speed bicycle. But when you cast Hollywood’s most celebrated anti-Semite as actor Alastair Pinch, when you let him drop lines like “It was good enough for Wacko Jacko (pedophile Michael Jackson),” when you immerse our gumshoe in the murderous “the star always gets off” corruption of “the Sh–ty of Angels,” what are you really saying about co-star Mel Gibson?
That makes the picture a form of moral relativism that probably wasn’t the intent of Gould, certainly not of journeyman TV and film director (“Brockmire,” “Veep”) Tim Kirkby. “Last Looks” invites you to ask yourself, “In light of everything ELSE we know about Hollywood, is ol’Mel all that bad?”
Gibson makes a lark out of the entire experience, all Van Dyke beard and ever-so-British twinkle, with every Received Pronunciation syllable rolling off his tongue like The Great Barrymore or the Greater Olivier at his vampiest.
He is glib. He is flip. Alastair drinks on the set of his popular TV show, “Johnny’s Bench,” which has him dropping the dipsomaniacal Brit act to sling an Oklahoma accent. He is all “I was drinking absinthe” when he decided that this was the night he’d “teach Stevie Wonder how to drive” anecdotes.
Alastair doesn’t seem like the sort who’d murder his wife. Then again, he doesn’t seem the least bit upset that this has happened, that their little girl (“America’s Got Talent” also-ran Sophie Tatu) is motherless.
Former star LAPD detective Charlie Waldo has to be dragged out of his recluse-in-the-mountains (Banning, California) life, limiting himself to “100 things” as his possessions, living off the land and meditating with a pet chicken in his Airstream . He was tempted by his ex (Morena Baccarin of “Deadpool”), threatened by a cop (Clancy Brown), generic thugs and a newly-made marijuana tycoon (Jacob Scipio). And still ou’d have to wonder why he’d take this case.
But all Alastair has to say is “What SAY you, detective?” in that accent, and our bearded anti-hero is on board. Sort of.
The plot is a tangle of storylines, alternate suspects, femme fatales and dead-end subplots which add up to little that isn’t obvious or that makes much sense.
The supporting cast has its stand-outs. Throw in Rupert Friend (“The Young Victoria”) as the oily, multi-tasking network chief, Robin Givens as his take-no-prisoners legal mouthpiece, Lucy Fry playing a runway-ready kindergarten teacher, with a cameo by Method Man and a glorified cameo by Dominic Monaghan as a seedy lawyer.
The entire concoction never amounts to much, but Hunnam makes an agreeable fictional detective stereotype thanks to his scruffy look, his ability to shrug off the many beatings such characters endure and Charlie’s “car with character” (that ten-speed).
But that brings us back to Gibson, who was Twitter-trending just last week as assorted folk noted that if “The Jews run the world/media/Hollywood” as anti-Semitic America (and the deranged Brit who took all those hostages in Texas) seem to think, “Why haven’t they/we canceled Mel Gibson?”
While the movies might be B-pictures, by and large, Gibson’s still working. “Last Looks” is no “Boss Level” or “Fatman,” and isn’t as high-minded as “The Professor and the Madman.” Not that any of them were all that. He has six movies in the can prepping for release, three movies and a TV series in production or pre-production.
A big chunk of the movie-going audience pays him no mind, but plenty of fans never quit on him, here and abroad.
So here’s what we can conclude about “Cancel Culture” when it comes to popular conversative figures caught being bigots. There IS no cancel culture. Gibson works a lot, just never in anything all that good, rarely in anything that could be called an “A picture,” rarely with a co-starring cast of any repute and rarely in a movie that earns much attention, or deserves it.
Whatever his baggage may bring in terms of name-recognition for your film, we read “What is this movie REALLY saying about/doing-for Mel Gibson” every single time out. His notoriety is sentencing him, every movie he makes and everybody who chooses to work with him — in front of or behind the camera — to movie purgatory.
Which is all “Last Looks” deserves.
Rating: R for pervasive “language” (profanity)…and violence
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Lucy Fry, Morena Baccarin, Dominic Monaghan, Robin Givens, Clancy Brown, Jacob Scipio, Method Man, Rupert Friend and Mel Gibson
Credits: Directed by Tim Kirkby, scripted by Howard Michael Gould, based on his novel. An RLJE release.
Running time: 1:50