The Last Shot
November 12, 2005
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Blake Nelson, James Rebhorn, Buck Henry, Jon Polito, Joan Cusack, ,
Actors love doing satires of Hollywood. Case in point: the movie star-packed cast of Robert Altman’s movie The Player (1992) and David Mamet’s State and Main (2000). The Last Shot (2004) follows in this tradition but as you’re watching this clumsy parody you have to wonder why did all of these name actors signed on to a movie with such an uninspiring screenplay?
Joe Devine (Baldwin) is a dedicated undercover FBI agent. So much so that he is willing to have a finger cut off in order to get the bad guys. He craves the plum assignments in New York City or Philadelphia but is instead stuck in Providence, Rhode Island by his superior (and brother). Tony Shalhoub plays a scarred gangster who also dreams of advancing to the big leagues and hopes that bribing Teamsters working for movie crews will be the way to achieve his goal.
In order to bust Shalhoub’s gangster, Devine decides to go undercover as a Hollywood movie producer. The only problem is that he doesn’t know anything about making a movie. Enter down-and-out screenwriter Steven Schats (Broderick) who is on the outs after a stint on the A-list. He too is also looking to get back on top and leave behind his crap job as a ticket taker at a movie theatre.
By chance, Devine and Schats cross paths and are exactly what each other is looking for. Devine needs a script and Schats needs a gig. Of course, Devine has no intention of actually making the movie. He even offers Schats the opportunity to direct and gives him final cut (which, realistically, should have made Schats suspicious). Initially, Schats thinks that he’s been give carte blanche to realize his vision but gradually Devine forces him to compromise more and more.
Schats is an idealistic dreamer in Hollywood so you know it’s a fantasy. Matthew Broderick is no stranger to this kind of comedy – he played a similar character in the much smarter and funnier movie, The Freshman (1990). Alec Baldwin has proven that he’s got the comedic chops with his numerous Saturday Night Live appearances and his hilarious role in Along Came Polly (2004) but he’s wasted here as the bland Devine.
The Last Shot tries to be a satire of Hollywood but just isn’t all that funny. The jokes fall flat and often feel forced. For example, a reoccurring gag involves Schat’s girlfriend’s (Flockhart) pathological hatred of dogs. At one point, she even holds a canine at knifepoint that tries to be edgy but just makes you hate her character and clumsily puts Devine and Schats together. The supporting characters, like Joan Cusack’s acerbic agent, are unfunny caricatures. Both Cusack and Flockhart deliver vulgar, one-note performances that does little to endear them.
For a movie that is supposedly based on real events it comes across as a very cartoonish effort that tries too hard to be funny. For comedy to work it has to come naturally and The Last Shot is just too eager to please. It’s a shame that all of these talented people were wasted in such a lackluster movie.
“Inspired by Actual Events” is a featurette about how The Last Shot was based on an actual FBI sting operation that used a movie production as its cover. This extra reunites the people that Alec Baldwin and Matthew Broderick play in the movie. Oddly enough, the structure of The Last Shot follows the real events fairly closely.
Originally, writer/director Jeff Nathanson wanted to have his film narrated by famous movie stars but this proved impractical so he decided to pick famous Hollywood movie producer Robert Evans to narrate. “Robert Evans Presents” allows you to watch the movie with his narration or just on its own. It’s a shame this was cut because it would have been the best thing in the movie.
There are four deleted scenes that are introduced by Nathanson who says that his favourite thing is deleted scenes and that he wanted to make a movie so that one day he’d have them to show (?!).
“Joan Cusack’s Montage” features more footage of the actress adlibbing and riffing to the amusement of cast and crew.
Finally, there is an audio commentary by Nathanson and Matthew Broderick. The track begins on an awkward note as Nathanson tries to tell a joke…badly which sets the tone for the commentary and provides some insight into why this movie is so unfunny. Broderick gamely plays along but seems unsure of some of Nathanson’s reasonings behind what we are watching. The track has the same forced feel of the movie and ends up plodding along making it an endurance test to see if you can last to its conclusion.