The Last Time

 (2006)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Michael Keaton plays a cynical hotshot salesman in a big New York technology firm, and Brendan Fraser plays a Midwesterner who is new to the company's sales force. They say Ol' Fraser was a superstar back in the corn belt, but the hick is lost in the Big Apple, so he gets paired with Keaton in the hope that some of the latter's tough urban savvy will rub off. The strategy needs to work soon, because their division is struggling and needs big numbers from both of them, but the hayseed just doesn't seem to get it. He not only fails, but he starts to bring his mentor down as well, so the pressure escalates on both of them ...

... and then just when you think you're going to watch Boiler Room 2, the film starts to go off in some really wild directions.

The Last Time is an uneasy hybrid of two genres that don't really go together: the talky "shallow world of business" expos, and the erotic thriller. It's Glengarry Glen Ross meets Body Heat. In the pantheon of famous combinations, that's not likely to unseat chocolate and peanut butter for the Jovian throne. After all, the whole point of "business sucks" movies is to expose the tribulations and emptiness of everyday existence: the shallow associates, the pressure to produce at all costs, the stress on family life, and so forth. The main point is undermined if it turns out that everyday life is not really so bad, and in fact would be quite livable except for the shady over-the-top scheming and diabolical machinations of a few monsters who ultimately destroy our lives with dramatic plot twists.

I'm not going to tell you how that all worked out. As a general rule I don't mind spoiling the plot of minor films, because I often ask "what's wrong with the film," and the answer is often "the plot," so the problem is impossible to describe without some spoilers. And after all, these essays are reviews, not previews, so some spoiling is sometimes inevitable. If a film sucks because of an improbable ending, for example, it's difficult to make that point without showing precisely how the ending is ruled out based on previous plotting. The case here, however, is quite exceptional. It is a totally plot-driven film and the presentation is really not as clever as it may have been because the director spoiled the surprises too early. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the hyperbolic plot twists and didn't really see the last one coming, so I don't want to ruin the film for you.

You're thinking, "So then what the hell did you enjoy about a plot-driven film with plotting problems."

A few things:

1. Michael Keaton. I wish he would work more. This guy seems to go so long between appearances, and it's a shame because he's really a fascinating actor. He has a way of always seeming lost in thought, a posture of "OK, I'm mouthing some words, but I have something completely different going on in my head." He creates great moments with pauses and quirky missteps that would hurt just about any other actor, but work for him. He fires off comedic riffs and insults with deadly accurate timing, but he can also use his mannerisms to reach out to an audience with an assurance that he knows what's really going on. The other characters in the drama may think they know what's happening, and we in the audience may think we do, but Michael is always the guy who's really on top of it, and his tongue will show the rest of us no mercy if we're too dense to catch on. He has that Bogartian ability to convey that he's jaded, but not really. I've scoffed every time somebody has proposed a remake of Casablanca with an actor like Ben Affleck or Sean Penn, and I'll continue to do so, but if anybody could pull off Bogie's "cynical exterior masking an idealist's heart," Keaton would be the man.

Is there any other actor like Keaton? Kevin Spacey and Kurt Russell are close. Kurt's essential screen persona is equally dismissive of pussies and fools, but Kurt is more laid-back, less pensive. In this film Keaton plays a sensitive college professor turned ruthless business shark, and it's easy to imagine him in both roles. It's difficult to picture Kurt Russell lecturing about Matthew Arnold's poetry to an honors class at Northwestern, but Keaton can pull that off.  Of course, Spacey could pull that off as well, but the difference is that Keaton could make it seem positively rock-star macho!

The Last Time wandered into a few theaters in New York and LA in May of 2007, but it was fundamentally a straight-to-DVD release, and while I'm saddened to see a favorite like Keaton appear in a non-theatrical B movie, I'm pleased to say that he makes the entire experience worth the watch. I can't think of anyone else who could have pulled off the "snarky guy turned romantic" role quite so well.

2. This film has quite a wicked sense of humor. Keaton delivers most of the zingers, but some of the others get their licks in as well.

3. I didn't exactly figure out the biggest plot surprise. I knew something big was coming, but the script was deft enough to convince me that it was something completely different.

4. Former supermodel Amber Valletta is, of course, gorgeous. with a great smile. Looks like a younger version of Cameron Diaz.

DVD INFO

* The disc includes both a widescreen anamorphic and a full screen transfer.

The special features include many deleted and extended scenes.

 

 

THE CRITICS AND ACADEMIES

   
   
   
   
38 Metacritic.com (of 100)

 

 

 

THE PEOPLE

   
6.4 IMDB summary (of 10)

 

 

 

THE BOX OFFICE

It had a perfunctory release in LA and NY. Box Office Mojo has no info.

 

 

NUDITY REPORT

  • Amber Valletta showed her breasts in a sex scene with Michael Keaton.
  • Some strippers are seen topless and in thongs in a lap dance club.
  • A deleted scene shows Brendan Fraser having sex with an anonymous pick-up at a party. Her breasts are seen.

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Our Grade:

 

 

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:

C

It is a watchable example of light, guilty pleasure entertainment. It's the kind of potboiler that critics hate but can be a pleasant way to pass some time.