Movies about the movie business are rarely good, especially the comedies. The majority of them are nothing more than bland fluff where the actors poke fun at themselves and their celebrity for cheap laughs. In this new release, The Last Shot, the film industry is the prime target for parody. However, this take on Hollywood is the freshest take thus far. From the first scene to “the last shot”, this flick will have you choking on your popcorn and shooting soda out your nose as you giggle away at this hilarious farce.
It is coming up on the end of 1985 and FBI Special Agent Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin) is sick and tired of busting two-bit mobsters in the greater Houston area. He strives for bigger and better busts. His brother Jack (Ray Liotta), acting FBI Field Director, sends him off to Rhode Island to try and take down mob boss John Gotti’s second cousin Tommy Sanz (Tony Shalhoub). The only way Joe can get to Sanz is to produce a movie forcing him to bribe the teamsters. So Joe is off to Hollywood to learn how to make a movie. He and his unit take a crash course in Hollywood politics from a straightforward producer (Joan Cusack). After one day, Joe eases his way into the role of big time Hollywood producer. Following an encounter at a dog kennel with crazed actress Valerie Weston (Calista Flockhart), Joe runs into movie theatre manager and aspiring filmmaker Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick) and instantly begins to court him in making his fake movie. Only thing is, Steven doesn’t know this is a whole undercover operation. As the story progresses Steven finds himself jumping through several hoops and is forced into making numerous compromises laid forth by Joe, and the rest of the FBI, as he shoots his film, the desert drama Arizona, in Rhode Island. All the while Joe continues to get closer and closer to Tommy Sanz; which may turn into him getting closer and closer to the “Teflon Don” himself, even before his brother does.
Having had to sit through such vile crap as The Whole Ten Yards, White Chicks, and Soul Plane this year, it’s such a refreshing feeling to have a comedy and actually make me laugh more than once. And by laugh I mean out loud belly laughing rather than playfully smirking at something just the least bit humorous. The Last Shot has to be one of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year. There was just something about the deadpan delivery of each cast member that had me in hysterics from start to finish. All the great moments come specifically from either Broderick or Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin is at the top of his game. Matthew Broderick does exactly what Matthew Broderick does best. Taking the two and watching them feed off one another is really great to watch. After all, this is a buddy movie in a way. As “Joe” and “Steven” interact with the various Hollywood personas, like washed up actress “Emily French” played by Toni Collette for one, you are encountering them just as the two of them are. Both are experiencing this whole pre-production process for the first time, and we get to experience that with them. The rest of the ensemble are all top notch, but this is Joe and Steven’s story, there isn’t a scene in this movie that does not have either one or the other. Broderick and Baldwin most definitely need to work together again. It’s amazing that they haven’t worked together until now; you’d think there would be some random 80's movie where the two of them would’ve shown up together in. This match up is all thanks to first time director Jeff Nathanson.
Over the past two years, writer/director Jeff Nathanson has been Steven Spielberg’s go to guy in the screenwriting department. Spielberg’s last two films, Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal were both penned by him. This time, it’s Nathanson’s turn at directing. In his directorial debut, Nathanson tackles ensemble comedy like a pro. Every comedic moment in this script is subtle and played perfectly straight by each of the actors. Ninety-seven of this film’s comedic moments come right from the dialogue. In an American comedy...this is very odd, though it totally works. Nathanson’s clever script and even more clever direction (opening titles are quite interesting) will most definitely keep him working for a long time as he continues to dedicate his career to slowly negate the fact that he wrote Speed 2: Cruise Control.
The Last Shot is a delightful little surprise. Comedies are supposed to be funny, and it’s been a while since I’ve actually seen one that was. The Last Shot will have you rolling in the aisles within the first 10 minutes, I guarantee. Since it is opening in a limited release, for what reason I do not know, you may have to wait a bit until it comes to your area. When it does, I highly urge you all to hunt this one down if you can. It truly is worth it.
Reviewed By: Bill Beyrer