Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Last Looks, with Mel Gibson

Apparently, detective work is a lot like playing an instrument. You get rusty if you stop practicing. Former LAPD Detective Charlie Waldo is about as rusty as it gets, but he retains an intuitive feel for investigating. He is going to need it in Tim Kirkby’s Last Looks, which releases this Friday on-demand and in theaters.

Waldo was once a hotshot media darling on the force, but now he isn’t. He dropped out, living off the grid in a trailer, to wallow in his own angst. However, the press still remembers him, so his old girlfriend, private investigator Lorena Nascimento tries to recruit him to work a Hollywood case with her, so she can trade on his celebrity. Initially, he refuses, but when she disappears, Waldo reluctantly takes on her client, a studio with a star accused of murder.

Hard drinking Alastair Pinch woke from a blackout to find his wife murdered and the cops at the door. He is a self-destructive mess, but he is a good father to his little daughter Gaby. Even though Waldo is not the sentimental type, he inevitably starts to question Pinch’s guilt. Unfortunately, he also takes several rough beatings from a group of gangsters, who seem to think Nascimento slipped him some kind of evidence.

Last Looks starts with a long, preachy environmental lecture that has no bearing on anything that transpires in the film. Once that is over, screenwriter Howard Michael Gould (adapting his own novel) settles us into a pleasantly grungy Hollywood noir. The degenerate Waldo looks more like a homeless dude on the street than Jack Reacher. He is no superhero, that’s for sure.

In fact, Charlie Hunnam does some of his best work as Waldo. He looks a good ten years older, even before they start applying the dings and bruises. However, the real star is Mel Gibson, playing the hammy alcoholic Pinch. Despite any uncharitable comparisons anyone might draw between the thesp and his character, Gibson plays it to the hilt. He chews the scenery, but he also humanizes Pinch as a father and screw-up coming to terms with his mistakes.

Of course, it is always fun to see character actor Clancy Brown, doing his thing as the presumably corrupt cop, Big John Cuppy. Young Sophie Fatu is very charismatic as Gaby and she shares some winning chemistry with Gibson. However, Robin Givens basically has an inconsequential cameo as the studio’s lawyer, Fontella Davis, but Morena Baccarin really helps set the film’s tone, despite relatively limited screen-time, as Nascimento.

The film could have stood a little tightening, but Kirkby manages to achieve a distinctive tone that is both eccentric and a little bit melancholy. Gibson is also a ton of fun. This is far more interesting than VOD-fodder he is starting to slide into (see
Force of Nature, or rather don’t). Recommended for fans of throwback lowlife gumshoes, Last Looks opens Friday (2/4) in New York, at the Cinema Village.