Coming in at just over three minutes, Last Leg has the monumental and unenviable task of establishing a setting, characters and context as well as some form of resolution in a short space of time. The way in which writer and director, Dylan Kelly, attempts to combat this is through efficient use of a singular location and just two performers, with varying degrees of success.
Playing out as a sort of low-budget Reservoir Dogs, the audience are introduced to the two nameless focal characters as they stumble into a dimly-lit holdout, sirens blaring nearby. It is immediately apparent that one of them is injured, as he slumps to the floor. The lighting is brilliantly effective at instilling a grim, dingy atmosphere and it is this, coupled with the constant sound of sirens, that instantly invites the audience into this gritty world and sets in place a feeling of tension and urgency.
However, the challenge that a filmmaker faces when creating a piece that is somewhat stagnant in nature is keeping the audience engaged through intriguing dialogue and magnetic performances that sell said script. The dialogue here is efficient and snappy. While there are little to no asides or flourishes, it would be impossible to argue that any of it is superfluous. It is the performances, unfortunately, that serve to somewhat weigh it down. With an intense set-up already established, there is a need for the central performances to be shot through with that same urgency. Instead, both actors, Blake Budimir and Bryan Kelly, deliver their lines with a certain woodenness that sadly betrays the existing atmosphere and narrative momentum.
Speaking of the narrative, aside from what is established from the beginning, there is little elaboration throughout bar a few throwaway lines that offer a slight insight for the audience into what came before. It is a nice touch so as to avoid spoon-feeding the events that led up to this moment, allowing viewers to use their imaginations and also a clever use of limited budget. Where the narrative falters, however, is around the midway point as an important plot beat takes place between the two characters. What could have been a potentially affecting and powerful shot is instead swapped out with some clumsy editing that almost completely negates the gravitas of the situation.
As Dylan Kelly’s second short film, he shows promise as a writer and director. Cleverly utilising the limitations of a low budget in order to conceive a setting that is instantly gripping and intriguing with two main characters that the audience never truly get to know shows an understanding for what makes engaging cinema. However, aside from the premise and impressive mise-en-scène, the short film is held back by some clunky acting and a missed opportunity to pack a punch at its most pivotal point. As such, Last Leg makes for an interesting yet frustrating watch that is ultimately let down by a small number of glaring issues.