“The Last Days Of American Crime” (Netflix film); Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Anna Brewster, Michael Pitt, Sharlto Copley; Direction: Olivier Megaton; Rating: * * (two stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
The idiom of French action filmmaker Olivier Megaton has normally been about stylish ultra-violence underlined by streetsmart swagger, which probably bears influence of his past in graffiti art.
Megaton, a Luc Besson protege, tried crafting an individual language as a director of mainstream action flicks in early efforts as “Exit” (2000) and “The Red Siren” (2002), before he hit the formulaic Hollywood highway with “Taken 2″, Taken 3”, “The Transporter 3” and “Colombiana”.
In his new release, Megaton tries regaling with a mix of sci-fi drama and trademark extreme violence. It is a concoction that made people sit up to his brand of cinema two decades ago, when he made his debut as a feature director with “Exit”. Foraying the OTT space, Megaton tries the same trick, with a different story.
“The Last Days Of American Crime” uses a dystopian set-up to narrate its tale of gory sci-fi that throws in a smattering of sex and a hint of political comment by the way.
Drawing from Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s 2009 graphic novel of the same name, Karl Gajdusek’s screenplay focuses on a not-so-distant future, when the United States government is in the process of launching a radio signal that can jam all notions of crime in the minds of citizens, therefore making it impossible for anyone to commit any act that is unlawful.
Anarchy takes over the streets as many try crossing over to Canada, rather than continue living in a dictatorial America. Among them is the career criminal Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramirez). But first, Bricke must pull off one final, memorable heist before he makes his way to Canada. On the mission with him are an estranged mob family scion, Kevin (Michael Pitt), and Kevin’s hacker girlfriend Shelby (Anna Brewster). Typically, success in the mission matters all the more to Bricke because there is a personal vengeance angle.
This is a film by a French filmmaker about American authoritarianism and police brutality — which perhaps explains a lot of those angry reviews and social media reactions in the US. Out here, we would keep the politics of the text aside and focus on the entertainment quotient of the latest film from the director who has given us two “Taken” flicks.
The trouble with Megaton’s new film is not its plastic socio-political comment (we have seen worse coming from bona fide Hollywood minds). The trouble is the film clearly does not have much of a story to tell and seems least assured of its intention. A lazy plot plods forward without any reason to justify its runtime of 149-odd minutes and a story idea that looked interesting on paper is wasted. Intermittently, almost as if waking up to the notion that things are getting awfully wrong, Megaton drills in random violence and/or sex ever now and then.
Megaton’s failure to set up a viable entertainer, despite all the cliches, is obvious from the fact that after all the explosive violence has played itself out, you are left with not a single redeeming moment that stays on in your mind. The action fails to be spectacular, the characters are far from interesting, and drama is utterly dumb. Netflix have just scored a dud that is all gore and bore.
(Vinayak Chakravorty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)