In the early going of “The Last Victim,” I figured my review was going to focus on the one thing every thriller that doesn’t work has in common — the lack of urgency.
But dawdling when it should be quick-marching through its murderous pursuit tale is going to have to take a back seat to other complaints — the idiocy of the characters, the utter hackwork of the obstacles/solutions in the clumsy screenplay, the pretentious voice-over narration, the absurd post-climax anti ANTI climax.
It’s a terrible movie with some pretty good actors, an arresting opening and a few striking images lost in what is otherwise 111 minutes of shouting-at-the-screen crap.
Thinking of putting money into “Ruthless,” the announced “next film” of director (he also gets a “story” credit) Naveen A. Chathapuram? Here’s a suggestion. Invite him over to show you this film. Make him sit through its excruciating storytelling stumbles and slow-walk-off-a-cliff pacing with you before asking the question that every film financier should pose when they’ve seen the answer to their pitch in the filmmaker’s previous work.
“You’re kidding, right?”
One can almost see why Ali Larter, in the title role, and B-movie badasses Ron Perlman and Ralph Ineson might have thought this was worth their trouble. It’s a murderous Southwestern thriller with a “No Country for Old Men” set-up.
A cold-blooded hoodlum (Ineson, who also growls the “Progress marches through things…sometimes, it just rolls over you” narration) settles a score at a remote, New Mexico barbecue joint. Tidying up the bodies and the getaway vehicle in the middle of a nature preserve, they’re spotted by a vacationing couple (Larter and Tahmoh Penikett).
Looks like there’re two new witnesses to add to that “tidying up.”
Perlman plays a narcoleptic sheriff who sits, parked at this or that scenic piece of roadside, drawling into his phone or police radio or insulting his subordinate (Camille Legg) when they’ve got evidence that something pretty horrid has happened on his watch and that there’s a killer or killers on the loose.
The way law enforcement is depicted here is almost a comical commentary on lazy, inept small town policing. Everybody’s barely awake, barely able to summon up the urge to just show up.
A lopped-off finger isn’t the only clue left behind in that barbecue joint. With the owner and his wife missing, blood smears on the floor and others we’ve seen shot, surely Sheriff Lobo and Deputy DoNothing know they have a mass killing on their plates.
The whole movie’s kind of slap-your-forehead stupid like that. Larter’s character, an anthropologist on the run in the mountains of New Mexico in the dead of winter, gets the drop on a guy, takes him out and fails to take anything from his body that might keep her alive — including his guns.
Time and again, we question why this character responds that way to all the mayhem they’ve witnessed, been the victim of, are investigating or are perpetrating.
The sleepy to sluggish to no-big-hurry responses suggest that there are whole sections of New Mexico where Red Bull just isn’t available.
And from the results on the screen, it doesn’t look like the film crew packed their own, either.
Cast: Ali Larter, Ralph Ineson, Kyle Schmid, Camille Legg, Tahmoh Penikett and Ron Perlman
Credits: Directed by Naveen A. Chathapuram, scripted by Ashley James Louis. A Decal release.
Running time: 1:51