Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jeremy Piven, Taryn Manning, Bruce Dern, Zach McGowan, Jack McGee, Jamie Kennedy, Cathy Moriarty, Cheri Oteri, Jason James Richter, Garry Pastore, Chris Kerson, Peter Patrikios, Kresh Novakovic, Betsy Beutler, Carrie Kim, Joe Gannascoli, Lars Gerhard, Leticia Castillo
Written by: Paolo Pilladi, Greg Lingo, based on a story by Greg Lingo, Michael Baughan, Billy Reilly
Directed by: Paolo Pilladi
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use
Running Time: 101
Date: 03/22/2021

Last Call (2021)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

Bar None

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This weird, sad drama tries to capture the feel of community in a certain urban neighborhood, but it's totally undone by unlikable characters, dangling plot threads, and a distractingly uneven tone.

Mick (Jeremy Piven) returns to Darby Heights, Pennsylvania, to attend his mother's funeral. He butts heads with his widowed father (Jack McGee) is a small-time crab fisherman and runs a local, but beloved dive bar, and his brother Dougal (Zach McGowan), who has a criminal record and does little more than drink and smoke pot. Everyone picks on him for leaving, going to college, and getting a job in real estate. But he maintains that he has ambition, while his friends do not.

His company plans to build a casino in Darby Heights, so Mick goes to work getting the signatures of his neighbors, promising them that the casino will help bring the neighborhood back to life. But Mick's childhood crush, Ali (Taryn Manning), discovers the dark side of the deal. So Mick must try to set things right.

Last Call begins with a death, and the moment the funeral scene ends, no one ever really seems to mourn again; it's forgotten by the very next scene. This seems to happen to many plot threads in this movie. It's as if each scene were improvised from the ground up, and whatever details that didn't fit were just left in place. In some scenes, Mick's father is working on a hopelessly dilapidated boat, and in other scenes, they go crab fishing in a brand-new boat that they presumably can't afford.

A light, bittersweet score tries to tie things together, but it, too, usually feels wrong for whatever the scenes are trying to convey. Then, Mick claims to be "in his 40s," although he looks (and actor Jeremy Piven actually is) mid-50s, and the other characters appear to be the same age.

Yet they act like complete jerks in their twenties, drinking all the time (with no consequences), playing dumb practical jokes, and making bets about who can have the most sex. They constantly yell at and pick on one another, and get into bar fights, and it's not very easy to like any of them. The rushed, last-minute, save-the-day finale is so hard to believe that it feels like Last Call leaves off with an insult.

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