MPI // 2011 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // July 23rd, 2012
What if they're wrong?
I sure have been doing a lot of these apocalypse romances lately. I don't what it is, but people seem to be really into ruminating on love at the end of the world. It's not necessarily a bad thing; I suppose that it's an important thing to think about, but I wish the execution of the stories was better. 4:44 The Last Day on Earth may be the worst of the bunch and, made by a name director like Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) and a star like Willem Dafoe (Wild at Heart), it makes the results that much more disappointing.
Global warming has progressed faster than climate scientists ever could have dreamed and, now, the world is mere hours from collapse and destruction. This situation brings us to a pair of lovers, a faded actor (Dafoe) and a painter (Shanyn Leigh, Public Enemies) who struggle with their past and their stunted future. With each other and their friends around them, they begin to accept their fate and deal with these final precious moments.
In 4:44 Last Day on Earth, there is no suspense about the world ending; we enter the story on that last day, while people are doing their best to accept this certain doom. It's not pretty, but it's also not what you'd expect. There aren't looters or people acting like nutcases, no wild final flings or big expressions of violence. Everybody seems to just be going about their everyday lives with the thought on their minds that this is it. That would be fine, I suppose, except Ferrara, who wrote and directed the film, really has nothing interesting to say about it. Unlike his earlier and (arguably) better works, though I've never been much of a fan, his obsession with the Lower East Side of Manhattan works against him, making this supposed tragedy seem small and inconsequential.
4:44 Last Day on Earth is messy, too, even at a mere 81 minutes. I suspect, unfortunately, that Ferrara anticipated a much longer film, because there are deep holes throughout the plot and relationships that come and go without warning or explanation. The only relationship that is solidified at all is that between Dafoe and Leigh, but even then, they go between absolute love and complete derision almost at the drop of a hat. It would be easy, and it almost seems the case, that the both of them are just crazy, but if that is true, it's an aspect of the characters that is left totally unexplored and makes it even more of a mess.
To their credit, the two leads are understated and quite good in their roles. Dafoe has a few outbursts (though I think that might be a clause in his contract), but he's mostly solid and has fairly natural chemistry with Leigh, who is the most likable character here. While neither character is explored very thoroughly, they make a nicely believable, if volatile couple.
Ferarra appears to have an agenda here about climate change, which I basically support, but outside of some old interviews with Al Gore and some lamentations from a newscaster, that isn't explored in enough depth, either. Ultimately, though it's the reason for the end of the world, it feels tacked on and it must have been what got pulled out of the film. I don't need a reason for why something in a Sci-Fi movie is going down; I can simply accept that it is. If the filmmakers are going to provide an explanation, though, it needs to be explored, at least a little bit. Here, it's mentioned and basically left alone as we watch people sit, drink, smoke, and talk. For a genre film, this is not the most exciting combination of actions and it shows in the final result of the film.
4:44 Last Day on Earth comes to Blu-ray from MPI in an edition that surely could have been better. The 1.78:1/1080p image is pretty good, with solid colors and deep black levels, but it lacks a little bit of the detail I have come to expect from the format. It's often soft and, while exteriors tend to have a bit of depth to them, the interiors suffer the most, where lighting is dark and detail is often murky. The sound, while not a particularly dynamic mix, is better than the image transfer, with a crisp 5.1 Master Audio mix that is well-balanced around the channels. The only real complaint that I have is that the dialog is sometimes a little soft, but that seems to have more to do with the understated performances than any actual technical issues of the disc. The only extra is a trailer, which is hardly worth mentioning.
I'm not sure that anything could have saved 4:44 Last Day on Earth. That the film is this dull at this short a running time is simply amazing and makes me wonder how long Ferrara actually intended it to be before realizing what kind of a mess he had made. If anything about it is worth watching, it's the performances from Dafoe and Leigh, but even then, only barely.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated