The Last Days of American Crime film evaluation: New Netflix movie is a criminal offense unto itself


The Last Days of American Crime
Director – Olivier Megaton
Cast – Edgar Ramirez, Michael Pitt, Anna Brewster, Sharlto Copley

Netflix’s The Last Days of American Crime wastes its excellent premise faster than it would take you to say its name. Set in a near future when America has become a fascist police state, the film spans a week before the introduction of a sweeping new law that would prohibit citizens from committing any sort of criminal activity.

The government is preparing to launch a radio signal that can essentially jam the brains of criminals if they’re contemplating breaking the law. It is never exactly spelled out what qualifies as a crime in this dystopian future. For instance, would a Netflix executive on the verge of green lighting a movie like this suddenly seize up?

 Watch The Last Days of American Crime trailer here

The impending initiation of this signal sends the nation spiralling into anarchy. In the opening scenes, we see shops being looted, robberies being conducted at gunpoint, and other miscellaneous mischief unfolding in the background. Think of it like The Purge, but extended to a week. Think of it like Minority Report, if it had been directed not by Steven Spielberg, but by the guy who has made two Taken movies.

Faced with the possibility of living under the thumb of the government, Americans attempt to make a dash for the relative lawlessness of Canada. At one point in the film, a TV news anchor narrates the story of a movie star whose private plan to Canada is shot out of the sky by the cops, who are in the meantime being fitted with brain chips that would make them immune to the signal, and therefore free to go about their business.

In the middle of all this, a career criminal by the name of Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramirez), also looking to make a break up north, decides to pull off the last great heist in American history. So he teams up with the scion of a rich crime family and his deranged girlfriend to pull off One Last Job.

Michael Pitt as Kevin Cash in a still from The Last Days Of American Crime.
Marcos Cruz/Netflix

Based on the comic book by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, The Last Days of American Crime is directed by Olivier Megaton, a filmmaker whose work you’ve perhaps chuckled at in the past. To jog your memory, he is the man who decided that a simple scene in Taken 3 where Liam Neeson jumps over a fence should be stitched together from 15 shots. The seven-second sequence has attained cult status on the internet, and is inevitably brought up in every discussion about the worst action movie trends of the last decade.

And it is this same chaotic visual style that Megaton — this is his pseudonym, by the way; like a criminal having assumed an alias — revisits in The Last Days of American Crime. To give you some pertinent context, directors such as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino often shoot with just one camera, having composed the perfect frames, and carefully devised the shot structure in their heads. I’d be willing to wager a month’s (slashed) salary that Megaton shoots action with at least half-a-dozen cameras rolling simultaneously, with the hope that he’ll simply stitch the scene together later, in post. He never can.

For a film that pretends to offer a captivating critique of American amorality, not a frame of it appears to have been shot in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The tax credits were too tempting, it seems. Only one member of its central cast — an in on the joke Michael Pitt — is American. The rest of the film’s supporting roles are strangely filled by South African actors, who perhaps came as part of the package when Megaton decided to shoot the film there.

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Even Ramirez, who a decade ago won the César Award for Most Promising Actor, and Sharlto Copley, who strangely disappears from the action for about the length of an entire feature film, are utterly wasted.

At nearly two-and-a-half hours long, The Last Days of American Crime is a painful ordeal — gory, relentlessly mean-spirited, and ridiculously dumb. Its tone-deaf treatment of relevant themes such as police brutality and authoritarianism is lost in a flurry of needless violence and Megaton’s absolute lack of nuance. His storytelling is, as it turns out, as shamelessly blunt as his name.

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