Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Last Man Standing
LAST MAN STANDING (1996)
Written and Directed by: Joseph Merhi
Starring: Jeff Wincott, Jillian McWhirter, Steve Eastin, Jonathan Fuller, Michael Greene & Jonathan Banks
PM Entertainment was one of the most prolific independent film companies of the 1990’s. Churning out a never ending supply of B-movie action and sci-fi flicks, you couldn’t walk into a video store without noticing the latest Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi (the PM of PM Entertainment) action masterpiece. Last Man Standing (not to be confused with the Walter Hill/Bruce Willis film of the same name) was one of the company’s biggest productions, and starred the great Jeff Wincott. Featuring some outstanding car chases, the film is an entertaining though predictable flick from the PM stable.
Kurt Bellmore is a tough, upstanding cop (with extremely bad fashion sense; check out the crocodile skin cowboy boots and brightly coloured blazers) who is happily married to his wife, Annabella (McWhirter) and has the best partner on the force, Doc (Banks). This perfect set-up is blown apart when Doc is murdered, in a hostage situation, due to bad judgement by dirty cop Seagrove (Eastin). Bellmore is blamed for the killing and unfairly dismissed from the force. Suspecting foul play from his boss, Demayo (Greene), and fellow cop Seagrove, Bellmore discovers they are in cahoots with a gang of dangerous back robbers led by the homicidal Underwood (Fuller). With his wife in tow, Bellmore then sets about bringing the robbers to justice and exacting his revenge, levelling half of Los Angeles along the way.
Directed by Merhi, Last Man Standing is nothing new in terms of plot or character and despite providing a few twists and turns becomes just another standard tale of revenge. Yet it does have one novel twist: having Bellmore’s wife stick by him. She is not reduced to a damsel in distress or window dressing and even saves her husband from a couple of nasty scrapes. Though not handled in the most realistic manner (Annabella: We are married, I am staying with you, Kurt: Ok) it is refreshing not to see the female character relegated to the sidelines, especially in a tough guy orientated flick. It’s also nice to see a couple sticking together amid the never ending onslaught of gunfire and car pile-ups. Ahhhh.
The early scenes of Doc and Bellmore working together are a nice counterpoint to all the action (and overacting) and show that Wincott can act. But these scenes are cut short to make way for hammy villains and tough guy talk. The movie then descends into characters trying to out tough one another in the swearing (fuck you, no fuck you) and smoking departments. Jonathan Fuller (Castle Freak) is adequately threatening as bad guy, Underwood, but almost ruins his performance by constantly referring to himself as either Snake or The Swashbuckler!!!
However, we don’t come to these films (those of us who watch these films at least) for Oscar worthy acting. It’s for the action. The car chases, the shoot-outs and the fist fights. And in that sense Last Man Standing delivers. Apart from the poorly put together scene of Doc being killed, the chases and shoot-outs are thrillingly staged. A fight between Bellmore and Underwood ends with a spectacular fall from a high-rise building; the Corvette car chase features said vehicle taking flight during rush hour traffic; and the final shoot-out blazes it way through a train station. But the piece-de-resistance is the armoured car/motorcycle chase. Stunt co-ordinator, Spiro Razatos, pulls out all the stops as cars flip, explosions tear up the freeway, people jump from speeding motorcycles onto moving vehicles and our hero is dragged behind an armoured truck a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Merhi and Pepin are renowned for big action sequences on small budgets and have created one of their best with this car chase.
Last Man Standing is an awesome action movie. If you like shoot-outs, explosions and car chases then this will be right up your street. It is also a good introduction to the films of Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin.