Netflix’s The Last Days of Crime is a rare example of a film that’s sitting on a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score. Could it really be that bad? We asked the fearless Travis Johnson to investigate.
It’s actually pretty rare to see a truly terrible film.
No, really—the genuinely appalling stuff tends to fly completely under most people’s radar, even film critics.
You might occasionally roll the dice on some indie genre effort a first time filmmaking team has pulled together with sheer grit and can-do spirit and let me tell you, a lot of those suck. But it’s kind of mean to then throw ‘em under the critical bus (a word of advice for nascent filmmakers: if you ever hear the phrase “let’s do an interview instead” you might be in trouble).
While every year’s tentpoles include a handful of flicks that fandom declares awful, they’re mostly just disappointing rather than horrifying, with one pop culture tribe or another sticking the boot in for largely partisan reasons. Likewise, the indies and festival darlings include a few that just don’t connect with the individual viewer, but that’s generally a case of said viewer not picking up what a singular voice is putting down. These things are arthouse for a reason, right?
But every so often a movie comes along that well and truly earns its critical drubbing. In the dark Year of Our Lord 2020, that movie is The Last Days of American Crime, by French action specialist Olivier Megaton (The Taken sequels, Colombiana).
Last Days might have disappeared without a ripple like so many other direct-to-Netflix action misfires, except that at the time of writing its sitting on a rare 0% consensus rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That kind of pasting demands attention—could it really be that bad? Or was this a case of a cynical exploitation flick not connecting with mainstream viewers? I don’t mind talking a punt on that kind of thing; I gave Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake a thumbs up on the basis of its value as a satirical piece, and my love of Michael Bay’s bombastic, nihilistic body of work is a matter of record. Could I, in an act of critical archeology, find something of value buried in this widely reviled specimen?
Based on the comic by the usually reliable Rick Remender (writer) and Greg Tocchini (artist), Last Days posits a familiar kind of high concept, low budget dystopian near future in which the U.S. government, facing a rising tide of out of control crime, is on the verge of deploying the American Peace Initiative, a blanket electronic single that inhibits people from knowingly committing a crime. This presents a career impasse for tough guy criminal Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramirez), who teams up with dissolute and clearly untrustworthy gang heir Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt, whose tics and tricks have long since worn out their welcome) to pull off a last minute heist, made possible by sexed-up hacker Shelby (Anna Brewster).
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That sounds like a fair basis for a fun B movie, and with its cast of nihilistic criminals, its existential themes, and its frisson of mind control tech it owes no small debt to genre legend John Carpenter. Conceptually, at least, this is a bit like Escape From New York meets They Live, if you squint a bit and don’t sweat the details. The problem is that those flicks were brisk, punchy, stylish little exercises in SF invention, while Last Days is, unbelievably, two and a half goddamn hours long.
With not enough plot or action to fill that indulgent running time, Megaton is forced to fill it with character and dialogue, but the script by Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion) provides neither. Last Days is populated with archetypes, not well-rounded characters, and so spending time delving into their tortured backstories (Bricke has a dead brother to avenge, while Cash has daddy issues) is a mug’s game. We should be enjoying creative violence and tough guy dialogue, but the film is short on that as well. Any actually interesting action is packed into the final act, by which time all but the most patient viewers will have given up, while the film’s version of snappy patter isn’t so much sub-Tarantino as subhuman. Everyone glares and grimaces and spits epithets, with no consideration actually given to how these moments land or what they might mean.
Which is a damn shame, because often these underappreciated genre offerings are fertile ground for filmmakers willing to take risk. Last Days, however, is risk free. And thrill-free. And imagination-free. It’s also sleazy and exploitative and nihilistic. And while those are not necessarily bad things, here they’re an excuse to simply not look beyond the surface of anything that occurs on screen.
And even that’s not a capital crime! Sometimes the aesthetic is enough and a Frenchman like Megaton is surely familiar with Luc Besson’s cinema du look, which deliberately privileges style over all other considerations. But Last Days doesn’t even have that going for it; it’s cheap, rushed, lazy and uninspired filmmaking, with no verve or brio capable of lifting its game.
No folks, this one’s not just a dud, but a colossal misfire: a lifeless, gormless, boring SF action ‘thriller’ that’s nowhere near as edgy and transgressive as it thinks it is. It’s a yawn, and that more than anything else is what scuttles it. I swear to you, my hand to God: skip it.