A great premise with impactful moments The Last Son has all the makings to be a great Western. Sadly it stumbles in the middle act, but importantly never falls. There is a lot to like about the film including Worthington and Colson.
It’s the bleakest of winters, and LeMay (Sam Worthington) arrives on horseback in the Sierra Nevada foothills, armed to the hilt for his mission to kill the last of his children. He believes evil is hereditary and, in a strange, inexplicable act of social conscience, has taken it upon himself to wipe his wicked family line from the earth. But it’s not long before LeMay discovers he has a third child, a twin, Cal (Colson Baker). Having brutally massacred his old commanding officer and robbed a bank with a stolen gun worth a small fortune, Cal is on the run and headed for more trouble, for he knows his father is coming.
It is quite difficult to make a Western and have it feel in any way original, yet for the most part, Tim Sutton’s The Last Son achieves that. With a unique premise, the film feels very fresh and with strong performances throughout; this should be a special film. Alas, it does struggle a touch with not giving us enough depth to the characters. When the film should grip us with these people, it loosens the reigns and almost lets it all go.
The Last Son has a particularly strong opening and final act, but it is in that middle act where the film struggles with its pace; our four characters are simply veering toward each other too slowly with moments that do not connect, such as LeMay’s fight. It doesn’t ruin the film, yet it does hinder it from flowing as well as it should.
Especially after the involving opening, this is where the characters should be fully fleshed out, so when the finale comes, we are hit hard by each moment. That never really comes here, and it feels as if the cast are doing a lot of the hard work in giving us something about their characters that wasn’t on the page. It is also a shame, as there are so many things that work so well in The Last Son for it.
First off, the score from Phil Mossman fills the film with atmosphere, and while on the odd occasion it punctuates a moment a touch too loudly, it works well to shock us in what is generally a very quiet film. Couple this with the gorgeous cinematography and the fact that despite the action involved, the camera isn’t afraid to linger on a second longer, and then we have all the markings for a great film. Yet that middle act and bare-bones writing for the characters hurt it.
To my surprise, Baker probably gives just as good a performance as Worthington here. It could be because his character is the most well written out of the rest of the cast though. A criminal who simply wants to get him, and those he cares about out of the life that they have sank into. He is a broken character who is mentally all over the place, and Baker does very well in presenting his conflict in every action he makes. In his own mind he is doing what he has to, whether that is to get what he needs or to protect someone he cares about. He has a great presence on screen; and most importantly, you believe in him. Without a doubt, if this was a route that he wanted to continue down, he absolutely should.
Worthington does well for what he is given and he makes some interesting choices here, especially with his voice. LeMay is seen as the devil by those around him. Hellbent on committing these murders so that he may continue the barely living existence he has made for himself. By keeping the dialogue for him at a bare minimum we never get the chance to feel for him. He is a man who cannot and will not accept death in the manner that he has been told and if that means his children have to die because of it, then so be it.
We get to see Worthington play restrained and he does very well throughout. You want to learn more about him and his journey, but have to accept that this is all we are going to get. If he was fleshed out a touch more, there could be the fear that we as an audience would feel sympathy for him, so he needs to be a held back character.
The rest of the cast are fine for what they are given to work with, with Jane in particular feeling wasted in his role. Heather Graham as Anna could have had more screen time as well as Emily Marie Palmer. Her character is at the sides for far too long and the little morsels that she is given isn’t enough to satisfy. As mentioned, this is a shame as there are some strong foundations made her for the characters, yet we never get enough of them and to learn about them. With the film diverting off on needless trails, it feels like a missed opportunity.
There are obvious moments that are very cliché that frustrate, such as the finale where the gang split up to track down LeMay in the town and get picked off one by one, which makes no sense, after the first couple of men are killed. For a film that is a quite as high concept as The Last Son, you would hope it would have tried to break away from such tropes. Unfortunately, in these moments in the script, the film falters, but as mentioned, it never fully falls over.
If the worst thing that you can say about The Last Son is that you wanted more of it, then it can’t be that bad a film, right? If characters were fleshed out more and the sequences of action we get were elongated, then there could have been something unique and sensational here for audiences. But, alas, it doesn’t reach that level of a movie. However, there is still a hell of a lot to like about it to watch it.
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