Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Last Time: Worst Part Of Monday Is Evaluating The Worst Part Of The Weekend.

The Good: I can't find any.
The Bad: Where to start . . . acting, characters, plot, reversal at the end.
The Basics: Even the presence of decent actors cannot save this poorly presented farce of the business world and the conniving involved in it.

So, I've come to dread Monday mornings, but not for the usual reasons most people do. My weekends are like pretty much any other day, save I have some time away from shipping out orders from Saturday noon until Monday morning. This usually gives me enough time to squeeze in one movie where I'm giving it my full attention, something I am seldom able to do these days, especially with the backlog of reviews I have yet to write. The worst part about Monday morning is that my commitment to not increasing my backlog means I have to first review whatever is freshest in my mind and experience. This means, no matter how bad a film that I just saw was, I have to evaluate it first thing Monday morning. In the case of The Last Time, this means I am left dreading Monday morning.

Ted Riker is a powerhouse salesman at a company where Jamie has just begun working. It's a cutthroat business and Ted has been on top of his sales team for years. While the company is shuttering other offices, Ted's franchise is feeling pressure to perform and Jamie has been falling down as the new recruit. Ted soon finds himself attracted to Jamie's fiancee Belisa and his interest in her drives him to distraction, which may have terrible consequences for the company and Ted.

It didn't take long for this movie to get to the point where I was sitting watching it, shaking my head and saying "This movie is just bad." I mean, within fifteen minutes of the opening of the movie, my stomach was turning with how inane the dialogue was. Riker is a cynic with a foul mouth and his character is so utterly despicable that it's over the top. Michael Keaton plays Ted Riker as a parody of the evil salesman with such nasty disregard for everyone and everything that he mortgages any sense that the character has any ability to back up his arrogance.

Similarly, Brandon Fraser displays none of his acting brilliance as Jamie. No, Fraser plays Jamie with an over-the-top sense of goodness and youthful exuberance that makes him a parody of the Midwestern hayseed. Anyone with any sense of reality can see the moment the movie starts that Jamie could not have gotten where he was going with the sensibilities and naivete that he seems to possess. In a similar vein, the audience fails to believe that Riker could be so maniacal and unlikable and still be such a business powerhouse as he is characterized as.

And, of course, in the course of the film, both characters are exposed for not being who they immediately appear to be. Riker has a heart of gold that has been broken, despite his almost immediate willingness to seduce Belisa. The problem is, the way the movie is written, along with the performances, leads the viewer who has any attention span to conclude early on that all is not as it seems. And by the time the payoff eventually comes, the viewer doesn't care. We've been dragged through ninety minutes of misery and boredom and the truth is, none of the characters are likable or empathetic enough for us to care about.

Writer-director Michael Caleo seems to want to be the next Bryan Singer, by providing an ending instantly reminiscent of The Usual Suspects (reviewed here!). The problem Caleo has in executing his last minute reversal is twofold: 1. By the time it comes, the audience does not care, and 2. The audience has been expecting almost the exact reversal that comes for over an hour, so when it arrives, we are neither surprised nor impressed.

But one of the things that makes The Usual Suspects so very smart and is lacking from The Last Time is that the clues are there for the viewer to see. In this film, the "surprise" ending where the culprits and the true plot are revealed is less a payoff to diligent viewing and more a simple answer to the question of "Who is behind it and why?" In short, anyone with a pulse will be able to tell that Ted Riker is being jerked around and that question is all that remains for much of the movie.

The problem is, it's almost impossible to care about it because none of the characters are believable, interesting, or remotely empathetic. The worst of this is at the climax of the film when one of the characters seems to have a change of heart. One of the characters belongs to something of a Syndicate that seems to specialize in manipulating people like Ted (I'm writing in vague terms so as not to ruin it for those who disregard my advice and watch this piece of crap) and I can buy that. The problem is, the person begins to have a change of heart. This is the same problem I had with Elektra (reviewed here!) where a trained assassin suddenly gets a conscious. If there is a change from what a character has a history of doing, the explanation needs to be made compelling to the audience or else it does not fit. That's the crux of the problem with this story's resolution.

I'm overthinking it, though. This is just a stupid movie. It's poorly constructed, it's poorly acted and it's poorly resolved. On DVD, it's no great shakes with bonuses being a collection of deleted scenes that add nothing to the film and three previews for other movies.

If you like corporate dramas or mysteries, avoid this film. If you want to see a bunch of talented people waste their time in a crappy movie, The Last Time might be for you. For the rest of us, there are better uses of our time.

For other works with Amber Valetta, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Spy Next Door
The Family Man
What Lies Beneath


Check out how this film stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the works are reviewed from best to worst!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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