Last Rites (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's thoughts in white:


Could there be any more irritating thriller device than this ...

One character says to another. "I just can't believe that your running into me was a coincidence. I'm not stupid."  Then the first character, a male (in this case a priest), falls for the second character (a gorgeous dancer), and forgets about the perfectly sound logic that led him to make that statement in the first place.

It is galling to me that the author actually knew the biggest plot hole and, instead of changing it to something more believable, actually inserted the criticism into the script, turning one of the characters into a movie critic!

The precise situation in question was this. A woman who had witnessed a murder went to confession, and it just so happened that the priest was (1) the best friend of the murder victim (2) the brother of the murderess! I suppose by having the priest say "of all the confessionals in all the cities in all the world, she had to walk into mine", the director was trying to defuse a situation which could lead to some ugly comments, but he failed. Roger Ebert made all the expected ugly comments anyway, then proceeded to give the film a perfect score of NO stars.

As it probably deserved.

Roger Ebert also seemed to be offended by the cavalier way in which the film used a priest's sexual indiscretions to advance the plot. I suppose that point must have seemed more important and more offensive in 1988, when Ebert wrote his review. Now it seems that the Church would probably be relieved that the priest's indiscretions involved a willing adult female. (On the other hand, the dialogue also implies that the priest, when a young man, lost his virginity to his evil Mafia sister. I know that the Lord is all-forgiving, and that many priests must have pre-vow dirty laundry, but I suppose the Church still might be concerned about a film which portrays a priest having committed incest with his murderous teenage sister, even if it did happen before he took his vows.)

There was actually one more plot hole as well - in fact, a very similar one - that bothered me even more than the one I described above. After the fortuitous confession, the woman agrees to meet with the priest. She does not show up for their assignation, but a taxi driver shows up and brings the priest to the dancer. It turns out that the impoverished dancer is living in a very nice artist's garret which is accented by many beautiful naked paintings of her, pictures in the colorful Mexican style, which encompass her entire life from her puberty in Mexico to the present day in New York. The artist and the dancer are living together in New York, and are from the same village in Mexico. Logically enough, the priest asks her if the artist is her lover, and she refuses to answer. He then mutters some movie cliché like "if I'm going to help you, I need to ask some hard questions." Yes, all that is true, but he never does get the answer to that question, because if he had, there would have been no movie!!! The artist remains unseen through another 65 minutes of plot twists that lead to the very Mexican village where the artist and his model grew up.

Once again, the priest sees the plot hole, and asks the right question, but ignores it. (Meaning, of course, that the scriptwriter did the same.) The priest never does follow up on that question. He never does ask her why she needs a priest to take her back to her village when she is living with a famous artist from that very village. Now does it take a genius to figure out that the artist must figure into the plot in some unmentioned way? If you really watch a lot of these films, you might also figure out that the amazingly well-informed taxi driver is more than he is pretending to be, particularly after he conveniently fills in some missing plot exposition by giving the priest a biography of the dancer, as the two men talk during the long ride from the cathedral to the garret.


Daphne Zuniga, now in her forties and still beautiful, is now insisting that she will not do nudity, and has always been too shy to do nude scenes. While it is obvious that some of the nudity in this film could have been done by body doubles, it is equally obvious that some of it was done by Zuniga. I mean there is her face and there are her naughty bits (breasts and pubic area), all in the same shot. I would sure as hell like to hear her explanation for that.

There is also a bare bum and a very dark male frontal from an obscure actor name Roberto Corbo, who played the murdered man.

Why, it almost seems that that the taxi driver might even be from the same part of Mexico, in fact that he might know the dancer very well  ... say, you don't think?  ... NAH!!

I have no trouble forgiving a scriptwriter for missing some details in a noir thriller. Raymond Chandler was probably the all-time greatest writer of these types of stories, and even the great Chandler screwed up some stuff in The Big Sleep so badly that he couldn't remember who killed one of the characters when he was asked that question by the director. To make matters worse, he still couldn't figure it out when he re-read his own story! Let's face it, it is very, very difficult to write these stories, and the authors will make errors. That I can understand and forgive. What tests my patience beyond the breaking point, however, is when the author obviously knows he has two plot holes and tries to bullshit around them instead of simply fixing them. That's just sloppy.

In addition to logical gaps, the film has also all sorts of editing and scripting failures. Characters are dropped. Situations are resolved without explanation. In one scene, Daphne Zuniga goes from having a towel wrapped around her, to reaching up for the towel, and back to having the towel wrapped around her. The editor simply inserted some footage into the wrong place, and nobody noticed.

DVD info from Amazon

  • there are two versions, widescreen letterboxed and full screen.

  • no features

And you are just not going to believe Daphne Zuniga's on-again off-again Mexican accent. Although she looks like she might be a beautiful (albeit exceptionally tall) Mexican woman, and her father is Guatemalan so she may even speak Spanish, she was born and raised in California, and that is obvious in the way she speaks English. Ms. Zuniga is stunningly beautiful, and her acting for the most part is workmanlike, but accents are obviously not her thing.

It's a very sloppy movie, in very many ways, and you probably want to skip it unless you are really a genre nut.

Tuna's thoughts in yellow:

There are many twists to the story, but I doubt that they would be any more interesting to read about than they were to watch. The whole thing plays out like several episodes of a soap opera based on the Godfather.

Zuniga shows breasts, buns, and public mound, but there is a curious mix of nudity, illusion, and body doubling. The clear shot of buns in the last image could easily be a double, and she was wearing a strapless bra in the hot sex scene, the top of which is visible in the full screen version. For some unknown reason, they took care to hide her breasts through most of her nude scenes.

Scoopy, who loves these films, was generous with a C-. I suppose I will go along with that, but it was torture for me to watch.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 0/4.

The People Vote ...

  • The film grossed only about $400,000 in its theatrical release.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a low C-. If you are a big fan of twisting thrillers, as I am, I predict that you will find it irritating but barely watchable. Others: stay away." Tuna says, "Scoop is too generous! This was torture to watch."

Return to the Movie House home page