When it comes to Netflix's newest film, “The Last Days of American Crime," ironic enjoyment can't even be found.
In the days of quarantine, new movies can be hard to come by. Netflix originals have become one of the main ways to experience brand new films, although they can be pretty spotty. “Roma” and “Marriage Story" are great films both winning Academy Awards. But, not-so-great films such as “Tall Girl” and “Bright" were universally panned. Those latter films spawned numerous memes and videos ridiculing them, so audiences were able to garner some enjoyment from their inception. Laughing at a bad movie can be just as fun as enjoying a good one.
"The Last Days of American Crime" is the worst kind of bad; boring and forgettable. While people still make fun of 2017’s “Bright” and 2019’s “Tall Girl” to this day, “The Last Days of American Crime" won’t be remembered in a month.
The film is an adaption of a graphic novel of the same name by Rick Remender, known for his work with Marvel Comics. Reviews for the graphic novel are rather positive, but whatever worked well on page didn't end up on screen. This film has the same feeling of out-of-touch awkwardness as other poor film adaptations such as “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” (2010), “I Am Number Four” (2018), and “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" (2013). None of these films grasped the overall concepts of their source material, so the result was a choppy presentation of the basic plot points and ideas too underdeveloped to meld with the focus-grouped, live-action world they threw together. The same can be said about “The Last Days of American Crime.”
The premise is a very interesting one, which makes the film all the more disappointing. The American government has found a way to broadcast a signal interfering with people’s brain to prevent them from committing crime. If an American citizen were to attempt to commit a crime, the signal will cause a high-pitched ring to pierce their brain and immobilize them. In this world, crime will no longer be possible in America, so the story sees a group of people planning a heist to pull off the last crime in American history. It sounds like a high-stakes thrill ride, but the film massively fails to execute this premise.
The government’s anti-crime signal, the American Peace Initiative (API), which is arguably the film's most intriguing aspect, seems like an afterthought despite the entire premise revolving around it. The film has glimpses of a world similar to “The Purge” where American citizens are committing as many crimes as possible before the signal goes live. Background newscasts mention a nation filled with protests both for and against the signal. Canada is now labeled as ‘The Land of Freedom” and is seen as a sanctuary, but Americans aren’t allowed to escape there for an unexplained reason. These ideas are all fascinating. How would the country react to something like this? How would other countries react? Unfortunately, despite its 149-minute runtime, the film doesn’t seem to be interested in exploring any of those concepts. Instead, the viewer is stuck with the bland, underdeveloped characters.
Graham Bricke is as dull as a protagonist can get. It’s hard to come up with a single character trait for him, even after spending two and a half excruciating hours watching the guy. The other characters say at points that he doesn’t do anything for himself, but it’s hard to find anything he did or said to support that. The film's opening gives him flimsy motivation through his brother’s death in a clumsily narrated montage. Bricke’s interest in the other main characters is initially only to learn about what happened to his brother, but most of his motivations and actions during the rest of the film are unclear. The film meanders between extremely awkward sex scenes and shooting sprees to show the characters doing practically nothing despite the premise implying a race-against-the-clock story. Crime will not be possible in a few days, the movie could use the time leading up to the last-minute heist for characterization, world building and set up for a climax. Unfortunately, the film barely offers any of that. Instead, nearly every scene seems inconsequential and ineffective.
The poor acting behind the unlikeable noncharacters makes the hollow plot even harder to sit through. Édgar Ramirez decides to spend his performance as Bricke scowling into the camera and breathing heavily to accentuate how cool he is despite his inability to emote. Anna Brewster’s performance as the sultry Shelby is mostly uncomfortable. Any romantic scene between the two of them is hard to sit through due to the complete and utter lack of chemistry on top of their horribly forced attempts to look cool and sexy. The worst offender by far is Michael Pitt as Kevin Cash. He seems to be going for a comical goofy guy that’s an unstable sociopath sort of thing, but it does not work at all. Nearly every word that comes out of his mouth is cringe-worthy and all attempts at humor fall flat. Bad acting isn’t limited to the main cast though, somehow every single actor in this film, no matter how small their part is, manages to give an awful performance. Aside from Michael Pitt, none of the performances are awful enough to be remembered. The film constantly sees random characters making surprise returns, but they’re all so forgettable that the viewer spends the entire scene trying to remember when they were last on screen.
One of the more distracting elements of the film is that it’s clear it thinks that it’s awesome. The gritty guitar riffs, the dubstep sex scenes, the constant gunfire and the insistence that every explosion be in slow motion just makes the movie feel like it’s high-fiving itself. All of it is so forced and unnatural that the viewer finds themselves in a perpetual state of rolling their eyes. There are hardly any scenes that escape this because the dialogue sounds like it was written by a middle schooler who just found out what profanity was. The actors deliver each line as if it were the awesome last line in the trailer that’ll give the viewer goosebumps and that faux coolness makes the dialogue look even worse. For example, Bricke makes a last-minute deal with a man, and the man says that it was, “too close for comfort.” After removing something from the man’s coat pocket, Bricke gets extremely close to his face. In his generic rugged-action-guy voice, he says, “no, this is too close for comfort.” Every failed attempt to be cool embarrasses the film further.
This movie already had next to nothing going for it, but it’s unfortunate time of release ensured that it was dead on arrival. The film sees lots of unpeaceful protests about API and the government’s attempt to police everybody against their will. The occasional moments that get away from the main characters see hostile examples of violent protests, rioting, looting and police brutality. This film was released not even two weeks after the killing of George Floyd, and protests still happen daily, so a poor film showing scenes of the most violent protests possible, including examples of bombs killing large groups of people and police not hesitating to shoot anybody who doesn’t comply, is the last thing anybody wants to see right now. The movie doesn’t do anything with these ideas and the messages aren’t very strong or clear, so it only manages to throw salt in the wound. It’s surprising Netflix didn’t make an effort to delay the release.
Netflix has had some blunders, but this may be the biggest one. Aside from some of the practical effects and a few neat shots, there is next to nothing in this film that is worthy of praise. The characters are unlikeable and boring, the dull plot is borderline incomprehensible and the juvenile attitude makes it hard to enjoy, especially with a runtime of 149 minutes. All of this on top of the film’s untimely release makes it an experience that is not at all worthwhile. It feels like a beer commercial that ran 148 minutes too long. It’s not fun to watch and it’s not fun to laugh at, it’s just boring. It’s the worst kind of movie and it should be avoided at all costs.
Final Verdict: 1/10