Writers: Paolo Pilladi and Greg Lingo
Director: Paolo Palladi
With all the social change movements and new voices starting to break through in the last few years, it is a shame that films like Last Call are still being made. While the subject matter of Paolo Palladi and Greg Lingo’s film is innocuous enough – a man finding solace in his old neighbourhood – its subplots and tangential scenarios rely on lazy cliché and ingrained, unhelpful stereotypes. Clearly, we haven’t come as far as we thought.
Developer Mick is recalled back to Darby Heights when his mother dies and finds the place unchanged. His father still runs a crumbling dive bar, his brother is in and out of prison and his friends stuck in dead-end jobs. When a local magnate offers Mick the chance to support the building of a casino, he quickly decides this is the pick-me-up his hometown needs, but none of the locals agree.
Palladi and Lingo’s film is basically a male rom-com and while there is a weak female love interest, this is the story of Mick falling for his old neighbourhood and its people once more. The plot gives him plenty of obstacles to overcome, not least his own judgemental attitudes, but there is a formula at work in which Mick starts to have fun with his old pals, becomes anchored in the area again and eventually (and entirely predictably) does the right thing – it is the kind of film Gerard Butler might make in between saving cities from enemy agents.
But Last Call is far too casual about its language and representational choices. The main subplot involves a competition between the male friends to sleep with as many local women as they can and they begin by compiling a list of potential candidates from a drunken priest – cue lots of infeasible attractive and voiceless women in bikinis or short skirts with no other purpose than to be objectified and conquered by this group of charmers.
Equally troubling are a couple of homophobic references used flippantly in arguments to insult an opponent; that one of these characters is a police officer celebrating a victory and the other is beaten up later in the same scene bears no relation to the use of these terms –- terms that this film perpetuates rather than challenges. In another scene, one of the friends adopts a ‘hilarious’ Indian accent to make a prank call that again has no relevance to the central plot and is just offensive.
The overriding message of Last Call is that where you are from is probably not as bad as you think but the film’s central character is difficult to care about. The slightly rambling plot involves one too many drinking montages as the lads go on several epic binges while failing to really develop any sense of the heart and soul of a neighbourhood under threat from unscrupulous property tycoons.
Jeremy Piven struggles to give Mick any redeeming features while his relationships with his old friends, his father and even his former neighbour and love interest Ali feel hollow so a conversion comes too late. The supporting cast fare little better with Ali’s (Taryn Manning) long-held love for Mick unconvincingly overcoming her fury at his behaviour while Zach McGowan and Jack McGee have nothing to work with as the fairly two-dimensional brother Dougal and their father Laurence.
Last Call doesn’t set out to shock, in fact it thinks it’s a lovely story of a man coming home but therein lies the problem in an approach that doesn’t even recognise the stereotypes it is endorsing. Careless rather than malicious, Last Call fails to overcome the limitations of its storytelling and while the residents of Darby Heights fight the developers, the film barely gets off the ground.
Release Date: 29 March 2021