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Virtue signaling – ‘The Last Days of American Crime’

June 6, 2020
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As someone who considers himself a bit of an action movie connoisseur, I’ve got a special place in my heart for high-concept action. I enjoy the broad strokes and tropes of the genre, but I particularly dig it when there’s an interesting idea serving as the framework.

Obviously, when I hear tell of a film with just such a framework, I look forward to seeing it. I have certain expectations, of course, but they are expectations I believe to be quite reasonable. My bar in terms of pure enjoyment is relatively low … and yet some films still manage to undershoot it by a frankly astonishing degree.

So it is with “The Last Days of American Crime,” a film that limbos so far beneath my reasonable expectations as to bury itself in a not-so-shallow grave. The film – directed by Olivier Megaton and currently streaming on Netflix – commits egregious cinematic sins almost too numerous to name, working its way through what almost seems like a deliberate checklist of poor choices and worse execution.

Seriously – this movie is a bad time. It is staggeringly overlong, yet still manages to feel dull and uneventful. The dialogue is laughable, the performances are wooden and/or off-kilter and the character motivations are either nonsensical or nonexistent. The action sequences feel rote and uninspired and it is shockingly tone deaf in spots. Just … not good.

In the near future, the United States government has set into motion a new initiative. Through some vaguely-defined and never-explained technology, a signal is going to be broadcast across the nation that essentially makes it impossible to commit a crime. Basically, this tone or vibration or whatever makes it so that your brain will not allow you to engage in an act you know to be wrong. The country has locked down its borders, with the crossing to Canada guarded by the military on both sides.

Grahame Bricke (Edgar Ramirez, “Wasp Network”) is a career criminal living in this world, a gifted bank robber who has never been caught. However, his brother Rory (Daniel Fox, “The Banana Splits Movie”) is about to do a six-month hitch in prison for a different(?) crime.

It’s not long afterward that Bricke receives word that his brother has killed himself in prison, leaving him despondent. He’s also in the crosshairs of a notorious crime family because the crew’s last job went sideways due to an early test of the signal. This is when he meets Shelby (Anna Brewster, “Hurt By Paradise”), a femme fatale computer genius whose fiancée Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt, “Run with the Hunted”) just happens to be the son of the very same crime boss who wants Bricke dead.

It turns out that Cash wants the notoriety that would come with being the last man to commit a crime on American soil. He and Shelby have an idea for a massive robbery, but they need someone with Bricke’s skills to pull it off. As he becomes ever more entangled in the scheme – and as the hours tick down until the signal goes live – Bricke starts to realize that there’s far more to this story than he’s been led to believe. He has been betrayed before; can he trust these people? Can he pull off this incredible and unlikely heist? Does it even matter?

Reader, it does not.

“The Last Days of American Crime” is bad and Netflix should feel bad. This is a rambling, ugly, borderline incoherent film, packed with nonsensical plotting and gratuitousness. It isn’t easy to make something that is both convoluted and dull, but Olivier Megaton – despite having one of the greatest action director names ever – has somehow managed to pull it off. The choices being made by the characters aren’t based in any kind of reality. There are a handful of plot machinations that make zero sense. It’s all just hand-waving, an excuse to get to the next act of sex and/or violence.

And it’s just. So. Long. It runs almost 150 minutes; you could probably cut an hour and not lose any meaningful degree of coherency. Hell, there’s an entire subplot where Sharlto Copley plays a cop dealing with the law enforcement ramifications of the signal that could be completely excised from the film and it wouldn’t matter a lick.

(Note: This film’s attitude regarding police brutality would likely be off-putting in any circumstances, but in the current climate, it’s actively unappealing. Anyone who could potentially be triggered by those sorts of scenes should absolutely give this movie a miss. Frankly, I kind of wish I had.)

Edgar Ramirez spends most of his performance looking like he’s been recently sedated; there’s very little spark to any of it, though that might be at least in part to the slowly dawning realization of just what kind of dumpster fire he signed onto. It’s tough to buy Brewster as either a sexpot or a genius hacker; even when she turns it up, she’s pretty meh. As for Pitt, he’s trying to … hell, I don’t know WHAT he’s trying to do. He’s a mumbling, spastic weirdo; it’s as though he’s mistaken physical tics and random volume shifts for character work. But really, everyone is bad – it’s rare to see a movie completely lacking in decent performances, but here we are. Some of these folks are genuinely talented – you just don’t get to see any of that talent here.

“The Last Days of American Crime” could have been cool, a sci-fi riff on a Purge-like dystopia. Instead, it is an absolute slog, a boring and brutal film with almost nothing of value to offer. It isn’t interesting and it isn’t fun. It isn’t just a waste of 2 ½ hours, though – you’ll actually feel actively bad about yourself for having watched it. My bar might be low, but no bar is low enough for this thing to clear.

The real crime is that this movie even exists in the first place.

[0 out of 5]

Last modified on Saturday, 06 June 2020 09:18

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