Netflixable? Gerard Butler gets back to making B-movies — “Last Seen Alive”

And just like that, Gerard Butler’s back to making B and C movies?

Sure, he’s got the imaginatively-titled thriller “Plane” due out in January, and not everything Lionsgate releases is a B-movie. But is this it? Is “Last Seen Alive” is the end of his “Olympus Has Fallen” late-career bounce?

Butler still gives fair value, bringing the emphatic “Where’s my WIFE?” pleas, threats and beat-downs in this riff on “The Vanishing” and “Breakdown.” But it’s inferior material, with a script that does a poor job at deepening the mystery of a missing wife, never giving us enough misdirection to believe for a second that, as the cops always say, “it’s usually the husband.” The waypoints in the plot are laughably worn out, the direction is pedestrian, at best.

Butler plays Will, a New England property developer in what one doesn’t need to stay through the credits to recognize as Over-Filmed Rural Georgia and not New Hampshire. He and Lisa (Jaime Alexander) are “going through some things” and she “needs to take a break.”

He’s driving her to her parents’ (Cindy Hogan and Bruce Altman) place when that last “stop for gas” is where she disappears. We don’t even have time to wonder why she isn’t driving herself in her own car. Because this isn’t 1959, even if she did cheat.

Will goes through an increasingly frantic search, calls in a cop (Russell Hornsby), and when he doesn’t seem to “get” the urgency, or pick up on the fact that “broken” CCTV cameras at the gas station actually work, Will takes matters into his own hands.

The picture’s clumsiest scene is the contrived fight Will starts with her parents, who couldn’t possibly think he’s done something to their daughter. Its most predictable scene involves that trope of big city screenwriters who see romance in rural trailer park meth labs.

Aside from that, it’s interesting to see former child star Ethan Embry devolve into The New Clint Howard, not a bad thing to be if you want to keep working.

I remember posting the trailer to “Last Seen Alice” last June, and half-wondering what happened to it. Netflix is the answer, and that might be a good place for Butler’s agent to be door-knocking these days. He’s still good value, even if the movies he’s offered are no longer reflecting that.

Rating: R violence, drug content, profanity

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jaime Alexander, Russell Hornsby, Ethan Embry, Michael Irby, Cindy Hogan and Bruce Altman.

Credits: Directed by Brian Goodman, scripted by Marc Frydman. A Voltage release on Netflix.

Running time: 1:35

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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