The Last Days of American Crime (2020)
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Premise: In the near future, the United States government responds to swelling violent crime with a nation-wide broadcast signal that will cause paralysis in citizens who are knowingly engaged in illegal activity. A group of criminals plan one last heist before the system goes live.
What Works: There is a grotesque brutality to The Last Days of American Crime that generally works for the story being told. This movie takes place in and around the criminal underworld and virtually all of the characters are thugs and gangsters. The Last Days of American Crime has a grubby visual feel that is appropriate to the characters and to the setting. The violence tends to avoid a heroic and exciting style so often found in Hollywood movies.
What Doesn’t: The Last Days of American Crime plays as though it were intended to be a cross between Heat and Escape from New York. That is a potentially compelling combination but this film is not satisfying as a heist thriller or as a dystopian action picture. The conceit of the story has obvious logical problems. The Last Days of American Crime posits a broadcasts system whose signal causes paralysis in people knowingly breaking the law. That suggests several logistical problems. What about actions that are wrong but not illegal? What if the citizen is just imagining a crime but not doing it? What if he or she is operating a vehicle and is sent into paralysis? The filmmakers don’t offer answers to these questions. They don’t even bother to ask them and The Last Days of American Crime plays fast and loose with its own logic. The film flirts with contemporary anxieties about plutocracy and the rise of authoritarianism. There’s no action or plot development to this effect, just dialogue that is a stupid person’s idea of smart and the political content is pretentious and halfhearted. The filmmakers’ disinterest in the intellectual implications of their story might be excusable if The Last Days of American Crime was a rip roaring good time. It’s not. The movie is too long, running two and a half hours. Not nearly enough happens to justify that length. It’s slow but not deliberately paced like Heat. The story just meanders from one scene to the next with no dramatic escalation. That’s partly due to the uninteresting characters. The Last Days of American Crime is stocked with generic tough guys. With the exception of Michael Pitt, who plays the erratic son of a crime boss, everyone is the same kind of scruffy, muscled, greasy haired bad boy with only one-and-a-half facial expressions. No one has any personality nor does anyone want anything tangible. They are going for the money but there’s nothing more at stake and so the film is never exciting or involving.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: The Last Days of American Crime is a slog through heist movie clichés with a cast of bland characters. The moviemakers angle their film as some kind of edgy action picture with a message about capitalism and authoritarianism but it’s far too dumb to be taken seriously.
Episode: #806 (June 28, 2020)