Despite being the directorial debut of recent Spielberg collaborator ("Catch Me If You Can", "Terminal") Jeff Nathanson, "The Last Shot" didn't get much of a shot when it came to theaters last Fall, getting only a brief, limited run. Apparently based upon a magazine article, "The Last Shot" stars Matthew Broderick as aspiring filmmaker Steven Schats, who dreams of making a movie out of his screenplay, "Arizona", which focuses on a dying young woman searching for an Indian cave.
Alec Baldwin plays Joe Devine, an FBI agent working in Rhode Island who hears about people with mob ties working their way into showbiz jobs in Providence. He figures that a good screenplay and a film production in order to try and provide bait for the local mob, including Tommy Sanz (Tony Shalhoub), who makes deals with teamsters/the union.
So, he decides to bankroll Steven's production, although he'll have to bring his Western tale to...Rhode Island. The other catch? He'll never be any wiser about the undercover operation that Devine is running and the film will never actually be completed...or will it? It's not long before Devine gets a has-been actress (Toni Collette) involved, and when the film starts to roll, he warms up to the whole enterprise.
The picture is one of those comedies where it's funny, but it's difficult to entirely put your finger on why it falls short of where it could have gone. For starters, the screenplay could have been punched up a little (mainly because it pulls some punches and doesn't consistently tighten the screws), the comedic timing seems a little off, and the delivery is a bit forced. Those things could be improved, but this is still one of those times when the plot and characters seem like they should have added up to more as-is.
The performances are generally solid, but a bit mixed: Broderick is the best thing about the movie, doing a great job portraying a wide-eyed dreamer who is under the impression he's about to enter Hollywood's ranks. Baldwin's deadpan is pretty amusing at times, but was used to better effect in Mamet's "State and Main". Toni Collette is good as a washed-up actress and Tony Shalhoub is great as a mobster, but it's an uncredited Joan Cusack who steals a couple of scenes as a crazed studio chief.
There's definitely still some very amusing moments here, such as the sequence where Steven has to do location scouting for the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in Rhode Island. The bit with a couple of government agents giving script notes is also quite funny. Overall, "Last Shot" is occasionally amusing, but it exists a bit under some of the other recent Hollywood parodies.
VIDEO: "Last Shot" is presented by Buena Vista in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation offers generally good-to-great image quality. Sharpness and detail are fine, as the picture appeared crisp and clear, although some scenes looked slightly soft in comparison. Overall, definition was just short of what one would expect.
Aside from some softness, the picture only displayed some slight edge enhancement. No pixelation, print flaws or other issues were spotted. Colors looked natural, with pleasant saturation and no faults.
SOUND: "Last Shot" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. A "comedy"-style sound mix, the audio is quite forward-heavy, with not much in the way of surround use. Still, dialogue remained crisp and clear, sounding well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Writer/director Jeff Nathanson and actor Matthew Broderick provide an audio commentary. The two don't seem to entirely know what to do, and proceed in a fairly unstructured manner. As a result, there are moments during the commentary that are funny and informative (talking about the production, characters, writing) and moments where the two offer some small talk and get a bit off-track. "Robert Evans Presents..." is deleted footage where legendary producer Robert Evans narrated the story. It works, and I think at least some of it should have been left in. You can play the movie with these segments in or just play the segments by themselves.
"Inspired by Actual Events" is a featurette that details the real story of an FBI agent who used a movie production as a sting operation. The agent and the filmmakers meet once again and discuss the history behind the project. Finally, a set of deleted scenes is included.
Final Thoughts: "The Last Shot" is a hit-and-miss Hollywood comedy that has some good moments and fine performances, but just can't consistently generate laughs. It's worth a rent. Buena Vista's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality, along with a fine crop of supplements.
The Film ** 1/2