The Last Victim review – modern dimestore western is Mo’ Country for Old Men

Ali Larter is the only bright spot of this western noir that seems familiar right down to the cod Cormac McCarthy voiceover

This modern western is a case of Mo’ Country for Old Men, though not in an especially good way. An unusually sedate Ron Perlman takes the Tommy Lee Jones old-timer sheriff role, and Ali Larter substitutes for Josh Brolin in fleeing across the south-western scrub. Which would make Ralph Ineson’s criminal scumbag the Javier Bardem/Anton Chigurh equivalent, backed up by his penchant for creosote-throated, metaphysical ruminations in a voiceover that comes off like dimestore Cormac McCarthy: “People playing us like pawns on a chessboard. But what happens if those pawns don’t do as they’re told?”

With the influence weighing heavy, debut director Naveen A Chathapuram rigs up a creaking jalopy of storylines. Local badboy Jake (Ineson) kills a loose-tongued associate in a late-night diner, but is also forced to murder two witnesses. He takes the bodies out to the highlands where chum Bull (Kyle Schmid) suggests disposing of them in a nearby nature park. Not a good time for Susan (Larter) and husband to pitch up at the gates on a trip across the wilderness before she takes up an anthropology position at university.

The Last Victim, according to the quotation opening it, is a revenge story. But other than a hint that Jake’s jealousy over his ex-wife is what provoked the initial killing, you wouldn’t guess that, thanks to the threadbare characterisation. The sketchy motivations provided make it hard to get invested in the cross-country hunt that ensues. Really, Chathapuram is more interested in handing out meandering thoughts on human nature, but can’t bring them meaningfully into the action, including giving voice-of-experience Perlman anything useful to do.

On the ground, though, Larter is the one indomitable element. The former 00s scream queen overcomes a horribly shallow introduction, filled with much hair-twirling, and gives her fugitive a lean-faced desperation and ruthlessness. If Hollywood needs another seasoned femme action hero to follow Sigourney and Charlize, they could do a lot worse.

  • The Last Victim is available on digital platforms on 10 October.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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