Film review by: Brian Penn
It’s difficult to know exactly where to start with Last Rites; a glorious hybrid of styles and influences. A single hand held camera initially puts it into reality TV territory. Intrepid documentary maker Simon Oiseau (Alex Tuohy) is filming the latest episode of his ‘Tough Women, Dirty Jobs’ series. He hooks up with Sara (Olivia Freeman) whom he innocently assumed to be a contract cleaner. Collecting various operatives en route to their next job Oiseau realises he’s stumbled into a twilight world of criminal gangs, assassins and ultra-competitive PIs and police officers. Suddenly, the master tapes of his show become hot property as he inadvertently records evidence of a crime scene.
He feels marginally safer when local gang boss Grandmother (Nuala Walsh) warms to the idea of a fly on the wall documentary. He slowly freaks out as the girls go about their grisly business and think nothing of putting the ‘rubbish’ out. As filming nears completion, Oiseau must decide what to do with the film. What will be the least worst outcome and how does the film maker ensure he emerges with all limbs intact?
The film pitches as a cross between the Godfather and the Office. It also tags John Wick as a thread in the narrative. However, that’s not the whole story. It nails the eccentricity of a crime boss for sure; and replicates the mundanity of the Office with a distinct relish. But it really comes into its own with an unashamed homage to 90s filmmaking. The cleaners fondly recall characters made famous by Harvey Keitel and their ability to solve problems. The inevitable Quentin Tarantino reference point is also present and correct. A gang of assassins in the narrative bears more than a glancing nod to the styling of Kill Bill. None of which is a bad thing as appreciation clearly rules over appropriation.
A strong and enthusiastic cast really go for it and thoroughly enjoy the experience. However, it tends to fall back on some tired visual gags; Grandmother stroking a stuffed cat is particularly dated and gives it an undeserved awkwardness. But it proves the mockumentary is alive and well with much more to say. And there is enough going on here to satisfy even the most discerning of viewers.