"The Last Shot"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Matthew Broderick as STEVEN SCHATS
Alec Baldwin as JOE DEVINE
Toni Collette as EMILY FRENCH
Calista Flockhart as VALERIE WESTON
Ray Liotta as JACK DEVINE
Tony Shalhoub as TOMMY SANZ
Directed by: Jeff Nathanson
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I have spent more than my fair share of time with would-be screenwriters and independent filmmakers. And it is this time in purgatory that makes otherwise great movies like “The Last Shot” hard to watch. They’re too close to the truth - even more so than the “based on a true story” moniker would lead you to believe.
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“The Last Shot” is a fictionalized account of how the U.S. government tried to bust John Gotti by getting involved in independent film. They send an FBI agent named Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin) to pose as a film producer in order to sting the mob who is strong-arming production companies with Teamster muscle. Devine approaches Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick) in order to produce his very touching, very personal screenplay “Arizona,” which is about his sister dying of cancer in the American desert.
At first, Schats thinks he won the lottery. However, when Devine starts meddling with all levels of the production - from locations to casting - he soon realizes he’s landed in his own level of hell. For example, Devine insists on moving the production to Rhode Island, even though Schats can’t fathom shooting desert scenes there. As things move along, Devine is eventually awarded a three-picture deal with the federal government.
What makes this film such an interesting piece is how realistic it is. I’m not talking about the Feds’ attempt at making feature films (which did really happen). I’m talking about how blow-hard producers want to meddle with an otherwise satisfying script. These kinds of things happen all the time, not just in small independent features, but in big-budget Hollywood projects.
The cast is very solid in this film, featuring an ensemble of folks not known for carrying a movie alone but masterful in the supporting roles. Toni Collette makes an outstanding performance as a nut-job Hollywood actress completely full of herself and oblivious to her own arrogance. Alec Baldwin is awesome as the hard-boiled Fed who gets caught up in the magic of movies. And Calista Flockhart makes a fine appearance as Schats’ actress girlfriend who gets snubbed out of the prime role.
Even if you know nothing about the inner workings of big-time Hollywood or independent film, you can find plenty to laugh at in this movie. If you’ve been through those level’s of Dante’s Inferno, you will find countless inside jokes and hilarious situations.
The DVD features a nice assortment of special features. Director Jeff Nathanson and Matthew Broderick lend their voices to an enlightening commentary. I constantly marvel at directors and actors who make note in the commentary that they don’t think anyone is listening. Ironically, this puts them at ease and often makes for the best material.
There are also several deleted scenes, as well as a montage of takes from Joan Cusack, who has a bit part in the film. One sizable deletion is the interstitials with Robert Evans, introducing different phases of the film. Nathanson chose Evans as a quintessential Hollywood icon who would be a guide through the film. His introductions are interesting, although clearly not needed to propel the story. Still, they’re nice to watch.
The best item in the special feature is a documentary entitled “Inspired by Actual Events.” This short featurette reunites Garland Schweickhardt (the real FBI agent) with Gary Levy and Dan Lewk (the original filmmaker patsies in this plot). With the three sitting together for the first time since their production vanished into post Gotti-capture vapor, you get a real sense of human emotion. There’s plenty of sympathy for Gary and Dan, although you can’t help but think these two guys should have known better.
“The Last Shot” is a fun movie that didn’t make much of a splash, but it’s definitely worth checking out for an evening of entertainment.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DTS 5.1 Surround. Widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.