Judge David Johnson really enjoys films with thruway-themed titles. His favorite: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
You know you're in trouble when death is the least of your problems.
So, what do you know about Copenhagen? After this dark and hallucinatory film, I know that I may not want to visit there.
Facts of the Case
Poor pathetic Nigel (Morten Vogelius). He's moved to Copenhagen with his drug-addled wife Maria (Jette Philipsen) to start off new, and put behind him an unsavory past. Try as he might, he can't shake his shifty nature that continues to menace him. When money becomes a problem, Nigel backslides into illegal goings-on, accepting a job from a local criminal kingpin named the President.
Nigel's first task doesn't seem like a big deal: he's just supposed to baby-sit some mysterious boxes at his apartment for a while, and then collect his ill-gotten money, which his wife will immediately dump into her abused veins.
But it's not the job that will lead to Nigel's descent into nihilism, it's the perks—namely Tanya (Gry Bay), a beautiful and profoundly horny prostitute. Tanya immediately makes her play for Nigel, dragging the weak-willed little adulterer into a trippy affair where they make love Satanic ritual-style.
Big shocker, then, that this all turns out pretty bad for Nigel. Tanya becomes more of a nutcase than he is prepared to handle, Maria, out of her mind and desperate for cash hounds him unendingly, and the President, knowing he's got a Grade-A patsy in his clutches, charges Nigel with more sinister tasks—all leading to the complete dissolution of Nigel's soul.
I can see where writer/director David Noel Burke is going with his shoestring tale of human emptiness, but his style just ruined the experience for me. Last Exit is definitely a tale of rampant nihilism, telling the story of rotten people with flaws that far outweigh their positive personality traits. Nigel is hardly a sympathetic character, an A Number-One dingleberry from start to end. His actions get progressively darker, and eventually bring down everyone around him. So much for the protagonist we can all relate to.
But that's not Burke's point, and I get that. Last Exit is simply a way for the audience to become privy to the complete breakdown of a human life, and watch as the ripple effects of his inner detonation affect people who dare to get close to him. This film is set in a world populated by a wretched people, who are proactively being a-holes. I'll hand it to Burke, when he wants to paint some ugly portraits, his brushstrokes are merciless.
To that end, the acting is okay. Morten Vogelius does well enough as the loser-of-the-arty Nigel, pulling off the utter moral decomposition duties as needed. Gry Bay, despite having an awesome name, is effectively seductive and, frankly, out of her mind as the emotionally damaged Tanya. Homeboy who played the President, Peter Ottesen, on the other hand, failed to convince me he was anything but a cool-looking bald dude sitting in a chair.
Unfortunately, all this pretty good substance was besmirched by the style. The major offender was the editing, hackneyed, jumbled, hard-to-follow and, to put it blunt, awful. Look, I'm sure much of it was a conscious choice by Bourke to evoke feelings of chaos and deconstruction and all that crap, but for narrative purposes it sucked. Shots bouncing all around, dialogue getting clipped, actors out of frame, all of it severely detracted from the film.
And then there's the soundtrack, a "hot pumping indie" mix boasted about on the back of the disc case. I found it intrusive and irritating, as if the producers were desperate to stick their Ipod listings into a movie, no matter how weird it sounded, juxtaposed with the onscreen action. These things, compounded with the overall low-budget look of the film, plus a few excruciatingly drawn-out dialogue chunks slapped in the middle, deep-sized this flick for me.
Full frame and psychedelic describes the video presentation. Bourke loves his colors, and this film lays the saturation on thick, to the point where it nuked my retinas. The 2.0 stereo mix is decent enough, projecting the hot pumpingness of the soundtrack.
An okay, by-the-numbers set of extras accompany: a commentary with Bourker, Voeglius, and Ottesen, deleted and extended scenes, and a behind-the-scenes featurette, which is comprised primarily of on-set footage.
I can appreciate what's trying to be done here, and kudos to Bourke for crafting a ballsy, dark, depressing film. But the sensory overload and annoying execution is blunt-force trauma to my brain.
Drop me off at the on-ramp please.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Heretic Films
• Director and Cast Commentary
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