Last Man Standing (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It's going to take me the whole damned review to give you the Robbins Recipe for this one

The pedigree here is very complicated. Back in the late 1920's, famed pulp writer Dashiel Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man) wrote a novel called "Red Harvest" about a lone PI in a small town, a man with no name, who plays two rival gangs against each other after he finds his client dead. The great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa admitted that he took the Red Harvest storyline without attribution when he wrote 1961's "Yojimbo", about a nameless, historyless samurai who enters a small Japanese town in the 18th century and plays two warring factions against each other. Is this starting to sound familiar? That's probably because you've seen the Clint Eastwood pic "A Fistful of Dollars", which is the same basic plot located in the Old West, with gangs of Mexican banditos instead of samurai.

"Last Man Standing" credits Kurosawa, probably motivated by the fact that Kurosawa is a distinguished screen legend and his name lends an aura of respectability to the project. Writer/director Walter Hill might have been more honest if he had also credited Fistful of Dollars, from which he borrows several stylistic elements, moving the Leone movie forward about forty years, and back across the border to Texas.


Karina Lombard is seen topless, albeit briefly and subtly

Bruce Willis is also naked, but in fast motion, with little to be seen except in freeze-frame

Strangely enough, although this movie is the fourth degree of separation from Red Harvest, it comes full circle back to Hammett's own Prohibition era for its locale. Apart from that, however, it's nothing like Red Harvest. The movie town is far removed from Hammett's town, which was a real place which gangsters ruled. (Also true in Yojimbo, in which there are real villagers trying to live normal lives.)

The town in this movie doesn't have anyone left to rule. Except for the mobsters and their floozies, there appear to be only four inhabitants, including no wives or children. The buildings all appear to be falling apart and left over from an earlier era. The unreality is further enhanced by the climate, which seems to be a permanent red dust storm during the day. All of these elements are, again, straight out of A Fistful of Dollars. Interestingly, although they refer to this as the desert, it rains at night. In fact, it rains so hard that it interferes with driving. That's good for movie atmosphere, but I think maybe they need to look up the definition of "desert".

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen letterbox, 2.35:1

  • no significant features

Although it is joyless, it's an OK movie, but you have to understand that the violence is not a means to an end in this movie. The violence IS the movie. It isn't a mystery with violence. It isn't a good yarn with violence. It isn't a crime story with violence. It is violence as entertainment. Body count is the entire raison d'etre. So don't watch it unless you like that. Although this is not my favorite kind of film, I did actually get kind of an adrenalin rush from some of the scenes here, although others seem too uncreative to be interesting, rather like watching target practice with live targets.

Just because I think Hammett's prose is kinda cool, here's the intro to Red Harvest:

"I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation."

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 1/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 2/4.

  • Damn. Years after I wrote the above mini-treatise on the literary and cinematic pedigree of Last Man Standing. I found this article, which did a more thorough job on the same topic!


The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5,
  • With their dollars ... a failure. They hoped for big numbers, spent $67 million on it, and engineered a 2500 screen roll-out. It bombed egregiously. Only $17 million domestic, $33 million overseas.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-. Capable genre pic, no more.

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