Matthew Broderick……….Steven Schats
Alec Baldwin……….Joe Devine
Toni Collette……….Emily French
Tony Shalhoub……….Tommy Sanz
Calista Flockhart……….Valerie Weston
Tim Blake Nelson……….Marshal Paris
Buck Henry……….Lonnie Bosco
Ray Liotta……….Jack Devine
Touchstone Pictures presents a Morra, Brezner, Steinberg, and Tenembuan production in association with a Mandeville Films production. Based on an article by Steve Fishman. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for language and some sexual content).
An unbelievable event like the FBI producing a fake movie, as a sting operation no less, sounds so preposterous that one would think it was the product of some B-movie screenplay. But the event is true; the FBI really did produce a phony movie. The filmmakers had no idea that the guy handling the money and scouting locations was an undercover agent.
Every year hundreds, thousands maybe, flock to Hollywood with dreams of superstardom. They end up with dead-end jobs, usually. I’m willing to bet the waiter who forgot to refill somebody’s coffee cup the other day in Burbank has a screenplay collecting dust in a drawer. Steven Schats is one of those guys. Played by Matthew Broderick, Schats is an usher at the renowned Mann’s Chinese Theater, who thinks of himself as a struggling filmmaker. He has a girlfriend (Calista Flockhart) who dreams of being a great actress. Together, the two of them live in a small apartment. Next door to the apartment complex is “Where the Stars Board,” a kennel where the stars of Hollywood keep their dogs. Schats loves the place because he can solicit his script to gullible producers. His girlfriend, on the other hand, can’t stand the barking dogs.
Alec Baldwin plays Joe Devine, an undercover agent for the FBI. Lately, his job has hit the skids. As a low-level operative he is trapped running sting operations in Houston. He wants to move up the ladder and get a better assignment. You think it would be easy since his brother (Ray Liotta) has a high ranking position in the Bureau. But Devine has an eureka moment when he learns that mob-connected trucking companies are butting into show business in Providence, Rhode Island. He plans to set a trap where he will produce a movie in hopes the mobsters will incriminate themselves.
Before he can set the trap, Devine needs a screenplay. By shear luck he finds Schats, a guy so naÃƒÂ¯ve that he is such an easy mark for the FBI. Schats pitches his screenplay; it is a story set in Arizona about a heroine dying of breast cancer traveling the desert in search of the Hopi Indian spirit caves. The fact that Devine wants to green-light the script right away smells of something fishy. Honestly, would anyone in Hollywood want to produce a movie like this? Devine’s one stipulation before signing on to produce, however, calls for the movie to be shot in Providence, “The Arizona of the east.” Well, Schats isn’t too keen on the fake cacti or that a storage locker be used as the Hopi Indian cave, but he goes along with it anyway.
The Last Shot, if you haven’t already guessed, isn’t your normal comedy. The movie doesn’t have a laugh-out-loud-funny-type of feel; the laughs are plentiful but come sparingly. Some of the jokes aren’t funny but put into context they work for a movie like this. The screenplay, by the director Jeff Nathanson, screams of dead pan humor. When you hear a line like, “Your dog is dead. She killed herself,” you don’t expect to laugh. But when you hear the dog committed suicide by jumping into a Jacuzzi because her owner, Joe Devine, was never home you understand the punch line. It is this type of cynical humor that deserves an odd assortment of characters.
When Devine first goes looking for a screenplay he gets assistance from a Hollywood executive (played by an unbilled Joan Cusack). She tells him to go outside and ask anyone, “a gardener, a cripple, a child molester. They all got ’em.” Tony Shalhoub (TV’s Wings, Monk) in his limited screen time as the show-biz gangster delivers such quips as, “I see you noticed my face. [My wife] doused me with lighter fluid and lit a match. Six months later, our marriage fell apart.”
Toni Collette as the ditzy blonde starlet Emily French is over-the-top drama queen funny. A woman who so desperately needs a part after starring in several B-movies, French will do whatever it takes to get the role. At a dinner meeting with Schats and Devine she pees in a wine glass and gives them a urine sample for drug testing purposes. Strange deadpan humor, indeed.
I will admit that Nathanson’s film is nowhere near as smart as say David Mamet’s State and Main. Mamet’s film was an eccentric comedy about show business. The Last Shot takes on the movie business, the mob, and the FBI to tell the true story of the greatest movie never made. The story is flawed to say the least, but it is a comedy that works because of its imperfections. Without its wry sensibility this movie could not have worked.
VIDEO: How does it look?
The video transfer has a nice look. In Hollywood the colors are brilliant. When the movie switches to Providence, the colors are subdued. It creates a nice ambiance between the two locations. Occasionally, there are some white spots on the print, but it probably won’t hinder your viewing experience. The Last Shot has its original widescreen presentation (1.85:1) and it is enhanced for 16 x 9 televisions.
AUDIO: How does it sound?
From time to time I found myself pressing the volume up on my remote. Some of the characters have soft voices or sound hoarse, unlike Joan Cusack, who as the production executive is constantly yelling at others. But the volume picks up its beat when Rolfe Kent’s musical score is playing. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix with French and Spanish subtitle options.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary track by director Jeff Nathanson and Matthew Broderick, deleted scenes, and an “inspired by actual events” featurette!!
Inspired by Actual Events is a 12-minute feature where FBI agent Garland Schweickhardt, who was assigned to Operation Dramex, a covert FBI sting operation in 1989, meets with the two aspiring Hollywood filmmakers (Gary and Dan) he duped into participating in the operation. During the featurette, scenes from the film are intercut with sound bites from Garland, Gary and Dan. Not a great featurette but it is interesting to see the real-life participants and the inspiration for The Last Shot.
Jeff Nathanson’s original script called for narration by famous celebrities. Knowing it wasn’t practical to shoot different actors or actresses, he asked famous movie producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Chinatown) to narrate his film. In post-production Nathanson realized that the movie didn’t need narration. But he loved the footage anyway, so he included it on the DVD. You can play the Robert Evans segments only or play the feature film with the segments intact.
There are four deleted scenes, three of which are scene extensions. They were rightfully cut from the film. Nothing is really gained from the extended versions. Jeff Nathanson wanted to include the “Musso and Frank” and “Signing Contracts” scenes on the DVD because he wanted to have a little fun with actor Buck Henry.
In a very small feature some of Joan Cusack’s ad-libs are spotlighted. The last joke in the Joan Cusack montage somehow rings true. You’ll understand it once you see it.
The final extra is an audio commentary with director Jeff Nathanson and star Matthew Broderick. This commentary was recorded two weeks before the film was released in theaters. The special feature is fun for what it is. After hearing the first minute of commentary you know this is not an educational tool. Jeff Nathanson even admits that the listening audience isn’t interested in hearing us explain the making of the film. So he begins by asking Broderick when he lost his virginity. From time to time Jeff tries to bring up the subject of Matthew’s personal life. Matthew admits that he has been in two films where he has sported a beard. Neither of them were hits at the box office. Jeff is thunderstruck, with a “why didn’t you tell me this earlier”-type of response. The commentary also includes stories about Steven Spielberg and The Freshman.