REVIEW: ‘The Last Days of American Crime’ is Soul-Sucking Boredom

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The Last Days of American Crime' is Soul-Sucking Boredom

The Last Days of American Crime is a dystopian heist/action movie on Netflix, directed by Olivier Megaton and written by Karl Gajdusek. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name, created by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. The film stars Êdgär Ramírez, Anna Brewster and Michael Pitt. Set in a crime-ridden America, the movie begins 2 weeks before the government plan to set off a nationwide signal that will render any person incapable of considering any action that may be deemed illegal. Graham Bricke (Ramírez) plans to commit one last heist before the signal is activated. Bricke is enlisted by Kevin Cash (Pitt) and his fianceé Shelby Dupree (Brewster), both of which bring their own baggage that jeopardizes the mission entirely.

The plot is woefully structured, the heist, and the plan that is hitched is uninspired, and is not helped at all by the awful pacing that preface it. The run time of the whole movie is 2 and a half hours, and the heist doesn’t take place until an hour and a half into it. And during that time, there is no planning or build-up to the actual thing itself. The bulk of The Last Days of American Crime centres around the three main characters either smoking, having sex or sitting, then getting into action sequences that have no links to the heist in question. If anything, the actual robbery feels latched on and ignored. The pacing is excruciating within the whole movie. Scenes go on for far too long than is necessary. Every single one is painful to sit through.

There are twists but each one is barely concealed and easily identifiable. Some will be upturned minutes later, while some take the entire duration of the movie to be presented. The issue is that the audience is so bored and adrift from connection to the story that none of them will resonate or have an impact.

The dialogue doesn’t do much to try and bring the audience back into the story once they have tuned out from it. All of the characters speak in the same way, making it hard to differentiate between them. And so much of what they say is flooded with curse words instead of actual content. Having characters swear on screen can be effective if presented well. But when they are used every couple of seconds and replace meaningful powerful words, they become a burden to the characters that speak them. And there’s no humour. It’s either misery and darkness, or an attempt at a joke that lands about as well a wonky kangaroo. 

Bricke is an apt name for the main character because he has the personality of one. The character is entirely one dimensional, with a tone of voice that never ascends higher than gravelly and a character arc void of motivation and depth. I spent a lot of time with this character and at no point did I feel any emotion towards him. Ramírez is brutally beige in his performance. There is so little change in his facial expression that a waxwork figure could have been utilized instead and not much would change. The dialogue written for him by Gajdusek isn’t helpful, as so much of it is monosyllabic brooding and insults, but the portrayal of Bricke makes him forgettable. And with the protagonist so weak and tiring to watch, the audience loses a focal point to follow through the narrative.

Last Days Of American Crime – Anna Brewster as Shelby Dupree, Edgar Ramírez as Graham Bricke in “Last Days Of American Crime” – Photo Credit: Marcos Cruz/NETFLIX © 2020

Where Bricke was a victim of underacting, Cash is inflicted with overacting. Pitt can’t be faulted for not trying to make the character his own. The one character that seems to change frequently throughout the script, Cash is initially written as a fame-hungry rich kid, but he is instilled with the personality of every long-haired, anarchic sociopath from other, more successful franchises. I got the impression that Pitt is trying to emulate other villains such as Ledger’s Joker, his performance is more akin to the blonde home invader from The Purge. The Last Days of American Crime may be attempting to present this character as a likable monster, he is unrelenting and overall insufferable to watch. And his ultimate reveal and ending are unrewarding; bringing what enjoyment I had from the character to a jarring stop. Everything he had done throughout the story seemed wasted because of the surprise his ending had in store. 

Brewster may play the most interesting role of the three, but it’s not saying much considering one is an empty shell and the other is an annoying mess. Dupree has more character development than her male counterparts, and her arc is complete by the climax. However, the moments within the story that are meant to be shocking are unoriginal and poorly constructed. So much of her identity is paper-thin; her name is barely mentioned.  Brewster, like many of her fellow stars, struggles with her performance and the script, and the character’s strength is undermined as the story progresses. I wanted to like her, as she was manipulative and smart and had more screen presence than the rest of her crew. But her arc loses its shine as more cliches move in and her stand out qualities are drowned by the terrible script.

Each of the main cast is poorly acted, but their chemistry together is even worse. The vast majority of the film is spent with these three, but they never interact well with each other. You never feel a true connection between the actors, and it comes through so evidently on screen. Bricke and Cash are supposed to have a deep rivalry with each other, but when they argue there’s barely any tension of escalation built. The romantic core of the movie between Dupree and Bricke is as lifeless and dull as the rest of the feature they are a part of. Their scenes together look awkward with no choreography or energy. Both Brewster and Pitt comically fail to maintain a stable accent for long, distorting their lines and making each conversation bizarre. 

There are other characters featuring in The Last Days of American Crime, and most of them don’t actually have an effect on the plot or an impact on the audience. When they reappear later in the script, their presence is so ineffectual that I forgot they were actually in it. And the biggest issue with all of the characters is they feel like mashups taken from other dystopian projects without actually having any substance themselves. There is one character that I found interesting, since his costuming was well done and he looked straight out of a graphic novel. But his appearance was fleeting and felt unattached to the rest of the story. 

The one positive aspect of the production is that the camera work tries to fill it with more energy and intrigue. The long tracking shots that reveal details in the background or at the last possible second initially makes this film seem like it has motion. But those shots get lost as the plot drones on. There are still some new and innovative shots and camera movements used throughout, some of which are gorgeous. But the momentum is ruined by the catastrophic pacing, and it never comes back. There are a couple of fun and well-choreographed fight scenes and car chases, and I mean two. Periodically we are treated to some nice imagery, like Dupree’s red, white and blue jersey she wears occasionally.  The production clearly had a high budget, which they spend on the car chases and locations, yet so much of it feels cheap and nasty. The small aspects of hope don’t lift the negative things up, the weight of the bad drags them down.

The cinematography and direction is obsessed with excess. There is a variety of wide shots seeping with light and colour and neon and space. But the things inhabiting the frame are empty and devoid of soul, or meaning, or anything. The whole world is empty.

The Last Days of American Crime is a dreary, dull adaptation that is a chore to watch. There’s no aspect of it that makes you want to watch beyond the first two minutes. Two of my colleagues attempted to brave this movie and couldn’t stomach an hour. The characters are wholly unlikeable, and the awful portrayals by the actors make them very difficult to follow. The plot is bone dry and unspeakably boring. It manages to get itself distracted and confused by subplots that do nothing but extend the runtime. The two and a half hours really do feel like an eternity only to be rewarded with little payoff at the climax. Every minute is like wading through thick quicksand that seems to drain both your energy and your soul. 

Time is precious. It’s finite. Don’t spend it watching this.

The Last Days of American Crime is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.


The Last Days of American Crime
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    Rating - 3/10
3/10

TL;DR

The Last Days of American Crime is a dreary, dull adaptation that is a chore to watch. There’s no aspect of it that makes you want to watch beyond the first two minutes. Two of my colleagues attempted to brave this movie and couldn’t stomach an hour. The characters are wholly unlikeable, and the awful portrayals by the actors make them very difficult to follow