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The Last Shot

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Last Shot

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin
Director: Jeff Nathanson
Rated: R
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Toni Collette, Calista Flockhart, Judy Greer, Tim Blake Nelson, Jesse Burch, Ray Liotta, Amy Smallman, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Chamberlin, Larry Eudene, Evan Jones, Valeria Hernandez

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

When an online critic writes a negative review for a film that some members of the audience like, you can bet that someone who has access to the critic's website will argue, "Hey, Mr. Know-It-All; if you know so much about (fill in: screenwriting, directing, acting, cinematography) why don't you make a movie and show us how it's done?" The best response to that was made by theater reviewer John Simon who said that critics have more in common with plumbers than with screenwriters. Just consider how few movie critics have had a role aside from a marginal one in the creation of a film! Jeff Nathason's work, "The Last Shot," takes someone up on just that kind of dare when he places as Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick) as his central character.

Schats (what a name!) has a dead-end job as ticket-taker at Mann's Theatre in Hollywood and, like everyone else in the L.A. area, he has a screenplay. He runs into the usual trouble by being unable to get close enough to a producer to make his pitch, particularly considering the morbid nature of his plot. One day his dream is answered when Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin), a would-be producer, greenlights Steven's script and, not only that, hires him as a director. As illustrates in "The Last Shot," a director is close to a deity in that when he strides onto the floor, people all around here the announcement as if on high, "Director on the set!" Little does anyone know that Joe Devine, who uses two pseudonyms, is actually a low-level member of the FBI stationed in Providence, Rhode Island who dreams of making it to New York or Washington as much as Steven fantasizes about being the helmsman for his own movie. The FBI wants to use a phony movie as a way to entrap organized crime figures like Tommy Sanz (Tony Shalhoub), since Sanz's people control what goes down with the Teamsters Union trucks used by the film industry.

Nathanson utilizes the intermittently comic story by Steve Fishman about an actual event that occurred at the time that two organized crime figures were gunned down outside Sparks' steakhouse. The screenplay is called Arizona, despite the fact that the film, for FBI purposes, must be made in Providence with cactuses and sand driven in from out West. The aim of the film is only partially to poke fun of the FBI–many of whose members get so caught up in the "film" being made that they want it to be shot for real–but is mainly a mild satire of Hollywood. The writing and performances hardly come up to the level of Robert Atlman's classic, "The Player" (about a paranoid young movie exec who is threatened by a disgruntled screenwriter). Nor does it have the edge of that picture's biting examination of Hollywood greed and power. But "The Last Shot" is easy-to- take, amusing, and sometimes hilarious, particularly when the uncredited Joan Cusack, a Hollywood executive, at one point says, "Bring me my back brace and my banjo!" Toni Collette turns in a comic performances as a prima donna who takes the role of a cancer-riddled woman who goes to the Arizona desert to seek salvation from the Hopi Indians.

Best of all is the chemistry between Alec Baldwin and Matthew Broderick, the latter still looking like a kid despite his thick beard. We watch as Baldwin's character, Joe Devine, does a great job putting on the aspiring film-maker–until Broderick's Steven Schats, without realizing it, one-ups the FBI.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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