Synopsis: A disgraced ex-cop seeks solace by moving to the woods, but his quiet life comes to an end when a private eye recruits him to investigate a murder
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Mel Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Rupert Friend, Lucy Fry, Clancy Brown, Dominic Monaghan, Cliff “Method Man” Smith
Director: Tim Kirkby
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Last Looks is a movie very much after its time. Now, before you scroll past this review thinking this should be taken as a bad thing, let me explain. Last Looks is the type of picture that would have played like gangbusters back in the mid to late ‘90s and will remind viewers of Hollywood insider crime romps like 1995’s Get Shorty. True, even watching the original trailer for Last Looks (which I find to be quite bizarre, so…skip it) left me convinced it was another in the long line of adaptations of Elmore Leonard novels that explored organized crime infiltrating Tinsel Town. Instead, this is based on the first of two books by television writer Howard Michael Gould, and he’s adapted his 2018 work as a star vehicle for Charlie Hunnam.
As inferred above, a glance over the disjointed trailer didn’t inspire much hope for this one, and the opening moments might make you question if you’re even in the correct movie. Hunnam (Pacific Rim) is former LAPD Charlie Waldo living a barebones lifestyle in Idlewild after leaving the force due to a botched investigation of a former case. With a wild beard, un-showered appearance, and Zen attitude, he’s a man that appears content to be off the grid and solitary. When former flame Lorena Nascimento (Morena Baccarin, Greenland) blazes in with her flashy car and proposition of an easy payday assignment back in Hollywood, which he politely declines, it invites a whole host of surly players into Waldo’s humble life who think he’s involved with either Lorena or the case.
All but forced to travel to Hollywood and clear up any confusion, it’s here that Last Looks catches its stride and sinks its hooks into viewers. Famous actor Alastair Pinch (Mel Gibson, Boss Level) is the star of a popular television show and stands accused of murdering his wife. While it’s a boon in ratings the slimy studio executive (Rupert Friend, A Simple Favor) enjoys, no one wants to see the popular star thrown in jail for a crime he (maybe?) didn’t commit. The trouble is, Pinch is a notorious temperamental boozer, and the live wire isn’t the easiest to warm to. At first, Waldo is resolute against taking the case, but after meeting Pinch’s daughter and taking stock of the evidence against him, he’s inclined to stick around town and see what he can do to prove the innocence of his constantly inebriated client.
Saying more about Waldo’s investigation or elaborating further on the various colorful people he encounters would muck up far too much of the enjoyment to be had in Last Looks. Director Tim Kirkby is primarily a TV director, with episodes of Fleabag and Veep in his pocket, though he’s also credited with the 2018 Johnny Knoxville film Action Point. That eclectic mix of style and mediums helps immeasurably in the timing of scenes (dialogue is fast, action sequences are swift but controlled) and keeping Last Looks light on its feet. It’s often highly entertaining and connects the dots of its crisscrossing plot as it goes. I’m always up for an insider-y look at Hollywood, and Gould inserts just enough gossipy talk into his efficient screenplay to satiate the cinephile needing a solid fix.
Even the best scripts and strong direction need a cast that can deliver, and Hunnam makes for a terrific leading man, and it’s a role he could parlay into an ongoing character (this is the first of two novels, after all) if he chooses. I sure hope he’d be interested in continuing with Waldo because you can easily see a niche movie franchise or, better yet, a streaming TV series being crafted around the character. The charisma factor is off the charts, and Hunnam is the kind of star who makes everyone around him look better, even the hard-to-write about Gibson. It’s tough to know how to critique Gibson at this point because off-screen, he’s beating the same troublesome drum as ever, yet it’s impossible to deny how magnetic he is. Like Hunnam, Gibson plays well with others (onscreen), and you crave more of him when he’s not there, and to be fair, his screen time in Last Looks is brief.
Clever casting in the supporting roles gives Kirkby more room to score points with viewers. Clancy Brown (Promising Young Woman) has a few nice scenes as Waldo’s former colleague, while Dominic Monaghan’s (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker) tiny cameo is well-executed. Playing one of the shady sort more interested in Waldo’s ex than the murder case, Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life) steals several scenes from his more notable co-stars, while Friend channels studio mogul Robert Evans just by donning a pair of oversized specs and questionably fashionable suits. My nostalgia meter pinged seeing Robin Givens as a high-powered attorney defending Gibson’s character, and although Baccarin displays some nice heat with Hunnam, I’m glad her character is sidelined so Waldo can focus on the case. The only bit of slightly akimbo casting might be Lucy Fry (Night Teeth), a little off-center as a schoolteacher who may know more than she’s letting on. Perhaps it’s the Australian accent she’s working hard to cover up.
Back to what I said at the start, about how Last Looks is after its time. I was recently remarking in a previous review how sad I was that the typical mid-budget film of an era long ago has seemed to vanish into the ether, replaced by either the franchise tentpole or quick glorified television movie. Along comes Last Looks and restores my faith that there are filmmakers and studios out there fighting the good fight and delivering entertaining yarns reminding us how each ticket we buy doesn’t have to be for an established package. It’s tremendous fun, the kind of film that for once actually deserves a sequel, and I think it would do quite well via word-of-mouth if enough people spread the news.