THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME is probably the most ill timed movie of 2020 so far. Maybe even the past decade, I’d have to do some research. I’m surprised Netflix didn’t pull or postpone its release to be honest. We’ll get to why in a moment. It is also way too long, convoluted, the rules of the plot device don’t make any sense and contradicts itself constantly, it takes too long to get to the heist climax, the dialogue and narration is Screenplay 101 levels of awful, not enough action, etc. etc. etc. There are only two things about it that are redeemable. Michael Pitt’s Nicolas Cage-like wacko of a performance, and director Olivier Megaton’s camera work and editing has grown much more steady and less choppy, but that’s about it. This is another one of those films that had smarter minds had a crack at adapting the graphic noves this was based upon, we might’ve had truly something special and epic. This film is 2 and a half hours long, and it acts like it is supposed to be an epic crime film, but it tries so hard and ends up failing so fast to the point where it loses its ‘epic-ness’ before even a half hour has gone by. Something to compare it to? It’s a poor man’s Heat rip off with a minor sci-fi twist that ends up tangling itself in multiple knots.
Rotten Tomatoes describes this film the best: “As a final response to terrorism and crime, the U.S. government plans to broadcast a signal making it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit unlawful acts. Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramírez) teams up with famous gangster progeny Kevin Cash (Michael C. Pitt) and a black market hacker Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster), to commit the heist of the century and the last crime in American history and escape to Canada (who isn’t participating) before the signal goes off.” The biggest problem of the whole film? The ‘rules’ of the signal. They are messy, convoluted, don’t make a whole lot of sense, and constantly contradicts its own rules. For example, there is this one scene where a woman is fighting with a cop and she can’t kill him because the signal is turned on, but then once that situation has been resolved, THE SIGNAL STILL ON MIND YOU, she is able to blow of a government computer system. Uhhhh…that is knowingly committing a crime right? How is she not able to kill the cop one minute but blow up government property the next? Doesn’t. Make. Any. Fucking. Sense. The reason for me saying that this movie is ill timed is in part because of one of the rules of the signal and the apocalyptic protests present within the film. It all gave me an uneasy feeling, and not in the way it was probably supposed to. Another one of the plot points of this signal is that law enforcement gets implants in their necks near their spinal cord so that when the frequency is activated, it has no affect. So basically the cops out there that don’t have the best intentions at heart, can conceivably get away with crimes/murder themselves. Who ends up watching over them? None of this premise or story was really fleshed out with a lot of thought to be sure. With what happened last and this week and all the protests going on, in the words of Chandler on Friends, “could it BE any more ill timed?”
How to have fixed this movie? First off, it should’ve been a trimmed down to a little under 2 hours. Secondly, probably shouldn’t have been released this week. The rest is an entire overhaul of the premise, the dialogue, the rules of the signal, and better character development. Especially a re do of when the story takes place. I understand that the movie had to take place while the signal was in the final stages of testing and only at the very end to have it activated, because the other elements wouldn’t have worked. But wouldn’t it have been more interesting to concoct a story where the signal has already been activated for some time? A story of outsiders far away from the United States, looking in for one huge score? Now that would’ve been interesting. It also would’ve been a great way to think things through and have air tight rules about how the signal can make or break you, and ways around it. If you held a gun to my head and told me right now to list all the rules of the signal with this particular movie that makes sense and that actually follows the precedents set before it, you might as well pull the trigger. Other than Michael Pitt’s bat shit crazy performance, the acting is okay, and the actors do a good enough job of not looking like they are cringing saying the flat dialogue. Edgar Ramirez barely speaks anyway, unfortunately he is always going to be cast as the silent brute force with not much to say. Anna Brewster is just there to look hot and get naked in yet another obligatory un-needed sex scene. The one person who is absolutely wasted here is Sharlto Copley, who was amazing in District 9 and other small supporting roles. Here, his role seems like it might be important, but then just ends up being an after thought. You’ll see.
The direction isn’t to blame at all here. In fact, it’s probably Olivier Megaton best looking film to date. If you don’t know who he is, he is the one that directed Transporter 3 and Taken 2 & 3. The worst films of those franchises. In those films the action has too much shaky cam and is edited piss poorly just to hide how much non action there is. Here though, mostly everything is steady cam. With what little action there is, at least it is shot professionally, and the scenes have time to breathe, the audience being able to tell this time which bullet is flying where. The cinematography is decent as well. It’s a sleek looking film, only it isn’t sleek because the entire rest of it is very, very rough. That’s the screenplays fault, and it might even be the graphic novel it is based upon’s fault. I would need to do research on the latter and I don’t have the time or interest to. It shouldn’t take 2 hrs and 10 minutes to get to a not complicated yet convoluted heist, where there isn’t that many steps in getting away with billions of dollars apparently. Since I’ve only seen the movie, I’m going to have to blame screenwriter Karl Gujdusek, which is disappointing considering he wrote the half way decent Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion, and an episode or two of Stranger Things. Yet then again he wrote The November Man… So if you decide to watch this 2 and a half hour epic non epic low-key mild science fiction heist action sort of apocalyptic thriller, and was bored and disappointed as much as me… that’s not my fault. I gave you all the signals.