Saturday, 4 June 2022

Last Seen Alive (2022) - Movie Review

The latest B-movie product starring Gerard Butler starts out with a decent enough idea. Will (Butler) and his wife Lisa (Jaimie Alexander) pull into a gas station, and while Will is filling up the car, Lisa… disappears. With nothing to go on, and a lot of hard scepticism in his way, Will sets out to find her. For an action-thriller, it’s a very Neesonsploitation premise, but the framing leans more into the ‘thriller’ side of that genre heading. A loved one vanishing (heh) into thin air, not having a clue where they went and not getting any help; even on paper, it sounds exhausting, so surely, it’s gotta work on the big screen, right? Well, it’s not as if this is the first time an American version of The Vanishing didn’t work out.

This looks dreadful. Whatever post-production this footage has gone through, it apparently began and ended with the greyest colour correction they could manage, because this is one of the most sterile-looking films I’ve seen this year. The bulk of the film is smeared with grey tones, looking like a government-funded domestic violence PSA more than an actual cinematic production (which could have been apropos, but we’ll get to that), and the only time it changes up is when it goes full Saw-sequel sickly green during a sequence set in a barnyard meth lab, or when it flashes back to ‘happier times’ in Will and Lisa’s relationship. And even then, it still looks like it’s trying to sell me something with vague inspirational stock footage.

Now, the story itself actually sets up some interesting ideas right from the off, framing how headstrong Will is in questioning everyone he encounters about where she is, and suggesting that maybe there’s a reason he can’t find him that doesn’t involve kidnapping and/or murder. But the delivery of those ideas feels a lot like Vic Sarin’s Kidnapped, where every other possible explanation other than ‘she Taken, go get her’ is presented with such a heavy layer of subterfuge that it’s difficult to buy into as an actual plot development. It doesn’t help that Butler doesn’t have the acting range to be on the receiving end of this much gaslighting and have it generate emotionality. Might have something to do with how he says his character is from Manchester, New Hampshire, yet his accent points to at least three other Manchesters before anywhere in the US.

The only real engagement this could offer is through sheer incredulity. The system font-ass credits got a chuckle out of me to bookend all this, and that random Brian McKnight needle drop was just bizarre (seriously, Cheatin’ by Little Brother would’ve been a better dramatic pick), but otherwise, it’s quite incredible how much this film actively tries to gesture at more interesting ideas than it ultimately goes with, while managing to look uglier than an awful lot of movies I’ve seen over the last few years. This is about as hard as getting lightly shoved into a box full of Styrofoam cups.

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