Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Directed by #OlivierMegaton
Written by #KarlGajdusek
The Last Days of American Crime is based on a 2017 graphic novel by Rick Remender. Released on 5th June 2020, Remender's dystopian action thriller has been brought to Netflix screens by Oliver Megaton, perhaps best-known for directing the Taken sequels.
In the near future, the US government prepares to transmit an electronic signal across the nation that will effectively paralyse anyone attempting to commit a crime. Career criminal Graham Bricke (Édgar Ramírez) forms an alliance with wanted gangster Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt) to committ the heist of the century before crime is wiped out forever.
Joining them is expert hacker, and Cash’s fiancé, Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster) who is also romantically linked with Bricke.
Ramírez makes for a bland, and frankly, wooden hero. Though suitably looking the part, the actor lacks charisma and wit in the role whilst Karl Gajusek’s script offers little in establishing sufficient appeal for the character. Brewster fares somewhat better in her femme fatal role, though its Pitt who emerges as the film’s scene-stealer. However, Gajdusek’s explanation for Cash’s immunity to the signal is hardly convincing: “I had something nobody else had, time to figure it out, time to practice. Finally, one day, I get clarity, that absolutely nothing met anything…That set me free”. One has to wonder that, if that’s the case, others will soon be able to do the same. Furthermore, no satisfactory explanation is given as to how this revolutionary program is going to be implemented across a population of over 300 million in a nation that’s in a state of anarchy. Considering his previous work show-running the first season of Stranger Things, writer Gajdusek largely disappoints here.
At 150 minutes, The Last Days of American Crime is surprisingly long for an action movie. Despite the length, director Megaton manages to keep the pace up reasonably enough, even if the second act strays, at times, from the film’s main plot. Rather bizzarely, Sharlto Copley is cast as a cop in an unsatisfactory subplot that seems to lead nowhere. Most unforgivably though is the lack of clarity around the central premise. One can’t help but feel how much more successful this could have been in the hands of a director like Christopher Nolan who has become a master at executing epic thrillers with large-scale action and ambitious storytelling. In fact, director Megaton punctuates his film throughout with a series of Nolan-esque cityscape shots which, whilst impressive, feel like almost cut and paste jobs from The Dark Knight. Unintentionally, they are frequent allusions to much better filmmaking.
One of the film’s more effective sequences occurs when Cash returns to his family mansion, confronting his immensely wealthy father and sister. Here, we see a mega-rich family, surrounded by money and power, with no love and compassion between them. “We all use each other, we all hate each other”, Cash’s father openly admits. It’s a Plantagenet-like dynamic, shared by the film’s trio of antiheroes who (in true heist-movie fashion) are also operating on their own agenda. Bricke is seeking revenge for the death of his brother in prision, whilst Cash wants to leave the legacy of committing America’s final crime. Dupree is also in cahoots with the FBI in a bid to ensure the protection of her younger sister.
The Last Days of American Crime has already received an overwhelmingly negative reception from critics and its plot has drawn inevitable comparisons to The Purge franchise. Unfortunately, Megaton offers little compensation for the lack of originality and viewers will need to wait until the end to find something to smile about.