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Last Minute, The

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // July 29, 2003
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted July 4, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Billy Byrne is the latest "it" boy, a golden child director touted as the next big thing. He promotes his upcoming feature, doing the rounds of press and diving into the hipster nightlife, and it all begins to go to his head. Then, his movie comes out and he is raked over the coals and branded as a hack. The golden boy quickly looses his luster and his life goes spiraling downward, loosing his agent, his girl, his home, his reputation. So, he naturally does what anyone else would do and becomes a pierce-faced junkie and falls in with a streetgirl, Anna, and her fellow gang of (mainly child) pickpockets living in the bowels of London. But, life is short, and Billy stages a comeback.

The Last Minute is a pet project of Steven (Blade) Norrington, and one assumes it has some parallels between Billy and himself, both being young hipster directors. But I doubt Norrington hung out with a gang wiseass, grungy child thieves, one of whom keeps some kind of demon rat/dog in a sack. That's right, you read that last sentence right,... a demon rat/dog in a sack.

Norrigton directs in a surrealism meets flashy MTV style, but ultimately it is his hollowness as a writer that drags the film down despite the visual energy. Basically, the film is divided into two halves, the first Billy's rise and fall, the second Billy a year later being a junkie thief and his attempt at a misguided comeback. The first half has some waxing philosophic about the creative process and having a creative voice, but, oddly, it perpetuates some of the pitfalls the characters talk about, like largely being style over substance. So, it is kind of ironic that Norrington executes exactly what his characters complain about. When the film shows us reviewers of Billy's failed film talking about how it was trite, uninspiring, and directorial masturbation, I couldn't help but think The Last Minute had to get pretty similar reviews.

Then, it takes a really strange turn and delves into the Dickensian thieves, complete with a Faganlike leader mentoring the children, only he spouts in grand melodrama theaterspeak like he was plucked form Gus Van Zant's My Own Private Idaho. I could see how if you even fairly enjoyed the first half of the film, this story shift in the last half could really turn you off. There certainly could have been better ways to facilitate Billy reaching the bottom rung, ones that weren't as hackneyed and awkward.

The movie is drawn in strokes that are so cartoonish and passionlessly predictable it amounts to much tedium. A super evil drug dealer named Percy Slegde runs into Billy in both halves, and he has this crooner persona to him, singing old standards in two numbers (one "singing "When a Man Loves A Woman" complete with thug backup dancers after he sledgehammered the Faganish underworld old man). But, all it did was remind me of better creepy characters who did similar in more substantial films, like Alex's "Singing in he Rain" number in Clockwork Orange or Dean Stockwell's character singing "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet. The film is speckled with such stylistic affectations, from the weird for weirdness sake like the Sledge character or the demon rat/dog, to the obvious like the street kids literally scurrying like cockroaches when Billy first enters their tunnel lair. And, then there are the cultural things which already seem outdated and blasé, like the medical fetish club Billy goes to, or the urchins having a Burning Manlike techno celebration.

But maybe the biggest hurdle for me was that it is really hard to care about Billy. He's a pretentious egomaniac who blathers on and on, is written off as talentless, then mopes, becomes a drug addicted thief, insanely tries a comeback, and then, well,... the first image of the film shows you everything seems to turn out okay for him, making the movie a dramatic dud. I just never cared about him. I cared about Travis Bickle. I cared about Henry Lee Lucas. Hell, both of them were ten times more unsympathetic on the surface than Billy, but Billy is all surface, no substance, and you are never given reason to care about him and his plight.

The DVD: Palm Pictures.

Picture: Letterboxed. For a very recent film, I thought the image was a bit too soft. I don't think you can chalk it up the low budget. The colors are internationally muted when in the bowels of London and more vibrant in the surface world. Contrast and grain is fine. Some edge enhancement here and there but not to an annoying degree. It is fine enough but underwhelming. All in all, it is just fair and one cant help but think better elements and a crisper transfer could have been made from such a new film.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and Dolby Stereo tracks. The 5.1 track is fine, but really I didn't notice to much dynamics in the mix so I switched it to the stereo track and found it was a bit more pleasing. Every now and then, the dialogue us hard to distinguish due its recording, being a tad too low in the mix, and all combined with the fact that the characters have heavy Brit accents. I hate to say it- damn my American ears- but I wished it had subtitles. The soundtrack is pulsing techno beats which come though with appropriate clarity and punch.

Extras: Chapter Selections--- Trailer--- Palm Pictures Previews and weblinks.--- Two Commentary tracks, one with the director Steve Norrington, the other with actor Max Beesely (Billy). Pleasant enough, though really a sole commentary track with both of them would have gotten the job done and probably livened up the anecdotes.--- Various production shorts, cast and crew bios, actor interviews, character tree, and some deleted/scenes. These are all unlabeled and are accessed by clicking on various menu pics, on varying pages, making for a labyrinthine menu, one that is difficult for this DVD reviewer to make sure he didn't miss some extra to inform you about. (NOTE: It is possible that my advance copy just didn't have a complete menu and text labels were missing from the navigation.)

Conclusion: Well, based on the great opening monologue, the movie seems to want to say something about not wasting your life. Well, I felt like my time was wasted watching the movie since I didn't care about any of the characters and could see where everything was going miles before it got there. Despite a fair DVD transfer, I'll say that it is only rental worthy. Certainly some people may find it a curious enough film to watch for some for its visuals and oddness, but beyond that it is really unremarkable.

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