Saturday, June 19, 2010

"This Had Better Be Good, Or I'll Feed You to The Midgets."

This was the exact warning I subconsciously issued Armand Assante when I started 'Last Run' the other night. So, when Ralph Brown's character cautions Assante in the same manner 30 minutes into the film, I knew I was in for a long ride. Now, just in case you were too busy watching 'Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring', 'Shrek', 'Training Day', 'Moulin Rouge', 'Blackhawk Down', 'Amelie', or any of the other "good" films of 2001 to see 'Last Run', let me tell you what you missed. 

In 'Last Run', Assante plays Frank Banner, Action agent! You should know that Jason Bourne, Dirty Harry, James Bond, Jack Ryan and Cody Banks were all amateurs compared to this guy. Frank Banner is a super covert action elite operative agent for the ACTION squad of the C.I.Action!  Anyway, Frank "ACTION" Banner was the greatest agent in the world until the stupid lousy Cold War ended, forcing him into sexy action retirement. However, even in retirement, Banner's action fighting skills and quick wit ("I've had smoke blown up my ass, but not quite so...HOT!") land him one final mission to get an important secret government ex-K.G.B. guy from one country to all before the CIA and the Russian Mafia can call his parents and tell on him. But, in order to do this, Frank recruits all the old players for his elite team of elite spies.

With danger around every corner, Frank uses his super action spy skills (which are highly tuned for action so that nothing gets by him!) to save the day.  Actually, to save a few days. You see, he was trained at the super action spy school for spies to be the elusive game that no snare can catch ...well, unless you're an assassin dressed as a priest hired by the Russians. Or a former partner. Or one of several NAVY frogmen. Or part of the Russian paramilitary. Or the CIA. Or garbage men. Or a woman with a cat. Actually, I think everyone gets the drop on him at some point in this film because he's often surprised that someone else is standing right behind him. But, I digress.

'Last Run' has taught me that all you have to do to run a Pentagon trained extraction team whose specialty is pulling out blown American spies and Soviet defectors is keep repeating the Russian names of various officials in expository speeches and then meet with people who carry briefcases in broad daylight where anyone can shoot you with a high-powered rifle or take your picture.  The rest takes care of itself.

But don't be fooled. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill 'Action/Espionage/Action/Intrigue/Action' movie. There's also a strange social statement beneath all the glitz and glamour of the secret agent elite action double spy world of action. I'm not certain exactly what it is, but they keep talking about the Cold War and how the average person doesn't care about Communism or Capitalism even though the politicians do, and everything else stays the same, or something. When they speak slowly, look longingly off-camera, and the music swells, I try to pay attention. I'm not really sure what it's supposed to mean, but it's pretty deep. (The moral, not the bullshit)

Regardless, we're looking at this all wrong. I mean, Frank Banner delivers the goods! Right off the bat, we're thrust into the gritty world of violent underground spy action when Frank rescues a former spy in the Ukraine and immediately gets into a car chase. Now, I know what you're saying: "Oh, a car chase. That's original."  Well, actually you make a good point. But, that doesn't mean they can't be exciting. 'Last Run's filmmakers looked at the car chases in 'The Bourne Identity', 'Ronin', 'The French Connection', and 'Bullitt' and cut out all the "excitement" and "intensity" that the other films were so concerned with.  I mean, why waste time and resources trying to make your film enjoyable and interesting when you can just dive right in and get to the action?  Frank Banner is definitely someone I'd want on my side. I'd be honored to be on his elite action team.  Although, everyone around him eventually gets shot in the back and he runs like one of my uncle's bowling buddies. You know the guy. The one that played high school football six-hundred years ago and still thinks he can run a 4.8 second 40 yard dash but usually just gets chest pains from reading menus. Yeah, that's the one.

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