Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Last Sentinel

The Last Sentinel (2007)

Written and Directed by: Jesse Johnson
Starring: Don Wilson, Katee Sackhoff and Keith David.

Director Jesse Johnson made a splash a couple of years ago with the brutal, indie hit Pit Fighter. It was a breath of fresh air adding the grit (and not to mention some gunplay) back into the fighting tournament film. A renowned stunt co-ordinator, Johnson follows up his genre hit with a more ambitious project set in a post apocalyptic world and starring action movie stalwart, Don “The Dragon” Wilson.

The future has been torched, cities lay wasted and Tallis (Wilson) is the sole survivor of an elite core of super soldier called The 700th. Roaming the empty streets and industrial districts for food and weapons, Tallis lives day to day, hiding from the ever dangerous Drones. A police force brought in to govern a country going to hell; the Drones now rule the land with an iron fist and heavy artillery. Tallis is just trying to stay alive but when a survivor from a rag tag militia (Katee Sackhoff) falls in to his care, Tallis finds himself once again taking on a mission to rid the city, and possibly the country, of the Drones once and for all.

Having really enjoyed Pit Fighter, been a fan of Don “The Dragon” Wilson since my teens and impressed with all the pre-release material for The Last Sentinel, I was somewhat disappointed with the final product. By no means a bad action film (it is still overflowing with explosions and gun battles) but definitely a mixed bag, The Last Sentinel unfortunately fails to keep up its momentum and excitement all the way through. The project may have been a little too ambitious for the budget, though the film certainly scores points for trying. The Drone costumes are a visual treat, the location work well used and the pyrotechnics staggering. Yet, for some reason everything just doesn’t quite gel. It may be Johnson’s script. His direction is pretty solid (and he certainly proved himself a good director with Pit Fighter), especially in the action scenes, but all too often the pace and logic falls apart in the slower scenes. The actors, while good, seem to have been given little to work with and don’t always convince when delivering lines of dialogue. A scene where Sackhoff and Wilson discuss books is so sloppily handled and over almost before it begins, you wonder what on earth it was all about. Obviously to build character, it would have been nice to see the two characters sitting discussing the books rather than just making some random, off the cuff remark. However, the leads are good, Sackhoff is a fiesty freedom fighter and Wilson (finally dropping his kickboxing nickname, The Dragon) gets to act all serious for a change. And is quite good to boot. Sharing a lot of his dialogue with a talking gun (not as bad as it sounds but way overused), Wilson shines as the battle scarred warrior finally finding a human existence with his blossoming relationship with Sackhoff. Good to see him doing something different.

Now the action at times is pretty sweet and at other times ho-hum. The explosions are big and the gunfire hard hitting but for every scene that gets the intensity right there is another that is all over the place. The first battle (a flash back to Tallis’ combat days) is impressive stuff: intense, gritty and bloody. Likewise a running chase through corridors, as the heroes attempt to out run and out gun the Drones and ends in a spectacular escape through a floor and out a window. Yet, there are other scenes that start and stop quite randomly (for instance, Tallis descending from the roof onto some Drones) they ruin any kind of momentum the previous scenes built up. Still, Johnson crams the film with action, meaning you are never too far from an explosion or fire fight and the end showdown, between Tallis and a Commander Drone is visually impressive.

Disappointing in certain respects but entertaining and successful in others, The Last Sentinel is an action flick that will please some and infuriate others. Enjoyable if not highly satisfying it gets by on its ambitions, its leads and its ton of action. Jesse Johnson is still a director to watch and The Last Sentinel does show him branching out and trying different genres and ideas. Let’s hope he’s got his gritty techniques back for his upcoming project, The Butcher.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the review, as you say the film was ambitious considering it's budget, don't believe the writing was the problem though, watched this twice now and the script is quite solid imho.