‘The Last Shot’ is a comedy that light on laughs, but good for a chuckle

[rating=3]Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, James Rebhorn, Tony Shalhoub
Director(s): Jeff Nathanson
Writer(s): Jeff Nathanson

Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin make a movie - but not really - in 'The Last Shot'
Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin make a movie – but not really – in ‘The Last Shot’

Comedy is tough. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I just felt it needed to be said before I got into the review for The Last Shot. Comedy is particularly hit or miss, and when it misses, boy it really can. But when it hits, you’ll be remembering that laughter for a while after walking away from a movie.

The Last Shot is a real mix of humor that misses often, but hits enough to make the film generally entertaining.

The story is based on a real FBI sting operation that occurred during the mid-1980s. Alec Baldwin plays Joe Devine, a dedicated FBI agent in Providence, Rhoade Island who comes up with the idea to pose as a movie producer in order to catch a local mob boss (Tony Shalhoub). It seems he has uncovered a bribery scheme involving teamsters who work on local movie sets.

In order to successfully carry out the sting operation, he finds a real Hollywood writer/director wanna-be, Steven Schats, played by Matthew Broderick. As they get closer and closer to catching the mob boss, Devine gets sucked into the world of making movies. Meanwhile, Schats innocently casts his film and prepares for production.

The Last Shot starts off not really finding it’s funny bone. The opening is a little confusing in that you’re not sure if you’re watching a comedy or not. Then, as Broderick’s character is introduced, it becomes unclear if this is a slap-stick film or simply a broad comedy.

Once Baldwin and Broderick meet, and the story settles into the how they get the movie together, the film begins to settle into a nice groove. The humor improves and clarifies, resulting in some rather hilarious moments. One of the best scenes of the film marks the entrance of Toni Collette as Emily French, a burned out actress. Her audition scene is hilarious, not so much because of her performance, but the reactions of the rest of the cast.

Personally, I was most impressed with Alec Baldwin. I think Baldwin has in recent years really become a much stronger actor, and he shows it here. His character is probably the most underserved one in the entire film, but Baldwin beautifully makes every moment count. With mere looks and expressions he steals the show from Broderick at every turn. Sadly, his character is never really developed beyond his pretending to be a producer, so when the film’s rather awkward ending comes around his transformation into a movie-obsessed producer seems a little strange.

For a film that wasn’t much of a success at the box office, I was surprised to see a DVD with so many extras. The first, and one of the best, is the “Inspired by Actual Events” featurette. Here we meet the writer and director who were pulled into the sting operation by the FBI. For the first time these two men confront the very FBI agent that posed as the producer and discuss the experience with him.

There is a sense during this featurette that the two men still carried some anger with them, although they play it off at the end. But they do point out that The Last Shot pushes the story a little further than it really went. The film they were going to make never reached the point of production, but some actors were cast before the FBI pulled the plug on the operation. And it wasn’t until several years later that either of them even found out that they’d been a part of an FBI sting, which came in the form of a newspaper article (the very article that inspired The Last Shot).

Other extras include a rather odd collection of sequences featuring famed producer Robert Evans, who was originally going to narrate The Last Shot. There’s also a montage of Joan Cusack, who is brilliant in her brief cameo as a real Hollywood producer. Of course you’ll find the standard deleted scenes, as well as a charming audio commentary by the writer/director, Jeff Nathanson, and Broderick.

Although often uneven in its humor, The Last Shot ultimately proves entertaining. And Baldwin completely steals the show in his understated performance.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 33 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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