Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Fugitive Parenting: Last Ride

An ex-con on the run would like to be a contemporary Mad Dog Morgan. Unfortunately, the days when outlaws could disappear into the outback are long gone.  Dragging along his partially estranged young son, he will stay on the loose just long enough to make everything worse in Glendyn Ivin’s Last Ride (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Kev is not scared of a little jail time.  He has been inside several times before.  However, whatever he has done this time represents a considerably greater level of seriousness.  Over the course of the film, viewers will learn what he did and why.  In truth, Kev is not a bad guy, but he is profoundly flawed.  His erratic behavior and periodic absences have made him a destabilizing influence in his son Chook’s life.  Life on the lam is not likely to improve matters.

Indeed, Kev’s self-destructive drinking complicates their getaway no end.  Yet, despite the chaos, father and son start to bond during quiet moments.  Getting back to nature seems to help.  It means there are far less people for Kev to brawl.

The rugged Australian landscape looks striking through cinematographer Greig Fraser’s lens, but it is also clearly a merciless environment.  However, Ivin brutally focuses on the relentlessly dysfunctional father-son drama.  Frankly, this is a draining film, offering viewers little comfort or hope.

Nonetheless, Ride is a powerful showcase for Hugo Weaving.  His bold work as Kev is likely to be a revelation for a considerable number of viewers.  Granted, he was instrumental to the success of the Matrix franchise as Agent Smith, but that role required entirely different acting muscles.  Ferocious yet acutely tragic, it is a career redefining performance many probably did not realize he had in him.

Without question, Weaving is the reason to see Ride, whereas his younger co-star is not nearly as compelling an on-screen presence.  To be fair though, he is saddled with some messy emotional conflicts and mixed motivations down the stretch, leading to a somewhat problematic climax.  Still, it is also worth noting a charismatic and stereotype defying appearance by Kelton Pell (the 1991 WA Aboriginal Artist of the Year Award-winner) as a forgiving park ranger.

Last Ride is often a tough watch.  It is the kind of film that inspires respect in place of affection.  Regardless, Weaving’s work demands notice, like a punch to the solar-plexus.  Recommended for those who appreciate acting as a pure craft (and are not struggling with depression or father issues), Last Ride opens this Friday (7/6) in New York at the Cinema Village.