Artisan // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // July 19th, 2002
$50,000...five days...and one last chance!
Sonny Wexler is a down on his luck old time Hollywood producer who is desperate to find something that will return him to the A-list, or a doctor who'll do facelifts at a discount. His fortunes fluctuate when he discovers Samwise Gamgee has penned a cinematic corker about a pugilist who wants to be a singer (entitled The India Ali Story). Sonny buys the script by scribbling on a tablecloth, like Toulouse-Lautrec or Harvey Weinstein. When Damon Black, a studio boss as understated as his name, tries to bounce the aging player out of his meal ticket place setting, Sonny's only hope is to borrow fifty large from the Armenian mafia and exercise his gravy stained option. As he falters from doped-up wife plot tangent to incoherent scenes with acting has-beens to a confusing gambling son-in-law/insurance fraud scheme, all he ends up exercising is the audience's patience, Does he get what he wants? If he wanted a good follow-up to his Jack Horner/Boogie Nights Oscar nod, the answer is a resounding NO!
One can only hope that the $50,000 that Mr. Andthebandit is so desperate to find wasn't going toward this script. The Final Hit is atrociously written, meandering like Dom DeLuise in front of a salad bar. For a movie that wants to sell itself as a dark farce ala The Player or Get Shorty there is one laugh -- ONE! Mind you, it's a pretty good one, but not quite enough to sustain a 90-minute film. Reynolds' direction is pedestrian and his cast of Hollywood Squares (both past and present) give fairly capable performances. There are even a couple of occasions where the acting overcomes the illiterate libretto. However, this film commits the ultimate narrative sin. It spends 88 minutes setting up Burt's purpose, details the various and sundry machinations he has to go through to even try and achieve it, and then veers off from the Hollywood Freeway and straight into Maudlin-ville. The ending, a sort of Deus ex Machinegun, is completely unsatisfying and feels tacked on, like Reynolds's muskrat hairpiece. Perhaps they should have asked for another rewrite, or maybe even an entire rethink. This could have worked as a searing drama. But as a satiric, biting look at Tinseltown, it just bites.
Artisan obviously has some DVD transfer "issues" to work through. The picture here fluctuates from decent to pitiful. While there is massive artifacting at the beginning, and compression defects throughout, at least it's an anamorphic widescreen presentation. (That's kind of like saying the food is crap, but at least you get a large portion.) The sound, though, is very good: Reynolds makes good use of light jazz to set mood and tone, and Artisan manipulates the Dolby Surround (2 Channel or 5.1) just right. The special features here include some cursory filmographies of selected cast members, a trailer that mangles scenes and mixes bits of dialogue out of context in an attempt to create something resembling humor, and a behind the scenes featurette. But don't get your in-depth hopes up. Avoiding anything resembling a look at the making of this film, it's honestly just a 10-minute declaration of the genius and artistry that is Burt Reynolds. Actors gush. Producers glorify. And DVD space is wasted. The Last Hit is not the worst movie every made about show business, but until Won Ton Ton, The Dog That Saved Hollywood sees the light of digital, it will have to do.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director and Cast Filmographies
* Behind the Scenes Featurette