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On Netflix: THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME (2020)

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THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME
(US - 2020)

Directed by Olivier Megaton. Written by Karl Gajdusek. Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Michael Carmen Pitt, Anna Brewster, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Bergin, Brandon Auret, Tamer Burjaq, James Richard Marshall, Terence Maynard, Sean Cameron Michael, Nathan Lynn, Neels Clasen, Leandie Du Randt Bosch, Johann Vermaak, Tiyler Kriel, Johnny Pienaar, Robert Hobbs, Daniel Fox. (Unrated, 148 mins)

Despite having the most bomb-ass name in action movies, French director Olivier Megaton can't quite back it up. After helming a passable Luc Besson ripoff with 2002's RED SIREN, he was recruited by Besson himself, but most of Megaton's products that rolled off the EuropaCorp assembly line were among its least memorable, including TRANSPORTER 3 and TAKEN 3, the worst films in their respective franchises. Megaton split from his mentor and has been MIA for the six years since TAKEN 3, but he's back with the Netflix Original film THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME, written by Karl Gajdusek (OBLIVION, THE NOVEMBER MAN) and based on a 2009 graphic novel by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. Megaton appears to have abandoned his shaky-cam/quick-cut style that made some of his Besson films so difficult to watch, but unfortunately, LAST DAYS is boring, derivative, hopelessly muddled, and punishingly overlong at a thoroughly unjustified 148 (!) minutes. There's absolutely no credible reason on God's Green Earth for this to be two minutes longer than GOODFELLAS and still somehow feel like huge chunks of it are missing, plus it even has to rely on early (and quickly-abandoned) narration to help clear up loose ends and move things along and it can't even do that. The kind of film that thinks simply acknowledging its plot holes and narrative inconsistencies is sufficient enough to excuse them, THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME is a pointlessly bloated fiasco that can't decide what it is, what it's doing, or who it's even for.







Set in 2025 Detroit (the Motor City played--quite unconvincingly--by Johannesburg, South Africa), THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME deals with just that: America has become a dystopian, crime-infested hellhole, with jackbooted cops patrolling the streets with military hardware and shooting criminals on sight. It's five days until the government unveils, through its so-called American Peace Initiative, the "API signal," which alerts a synaptic blocker in the human brain that produces a high-pitched signal designed to incapacitate people and prevent them from committing acts they know to be unlawful. Crime will be instantly wiped out and unnecessary police departments will fall under government control, and advocates of civil liberties are making a run for the Canadian border, where the US military stands guard and shoots those trying to cross. Career criminal Graham Bricke (Edgar Ramirez) is recruited by scuzzy Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt, billed as "Michael Carmen Pitt," and doing a feature-length Jason Mewes impression) and his seductive fiancee Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster, straight out of a Besson film) to become a partner in a planned heist of $1 billion from the US government's "Money Factory" currency facility (stationed right by the Canadian border, for some reason). The idea is to get in and have ace hacker Shelby jam the ATI signal just as it goes live at midnight, thus giving them several minutes free of the piercing "brain rape" and allow them time to get out and get to the border. Cash manipulates Bricke into taking part because he's knows he's got an ax to grind with the government: he was in prison with Bricke's younger brother, who allegedly committed suicide but Cash reveals that the inmates were being used in ATI signal test runs (which happened to Bricke on a bank robbery a year earlier) that eventually caused his brother's death. Cash has his own reasons for the heist--he's the black sheep son of powerful Detroit crime boss Rossi Dumois (Patrick Bergin sighting!), and he wants to create his own legacy by pulling off the last crime in American history. And Shelby may not be who she claims to be, as she's periodically hassled by a pair of corrupt FBI agents (James Richard Marshall, Terence Maynard) who have kidnapped her little sister (Tiyler Kriel) to ensure her cooperation with whatever it is they need her to do.


I don't say that to avoid spoilers--I legit don't know exactly what it is they want from Shelby. If THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME concentrated on the heist, it might've been OK. It seems to have trouble staying focused on itself, with more convoluted subplots than an entire season of a TV series. Of course, there isn't enough time to accommodate all of these details so things get lost in the shuffle, with so much extraneous, time-wasting bullshit about a Bricke/Cash/Shelby love triangle, Dumois' guys coming after Bricke for some past transgression involving his brother and $7 million, the same Dumois guys kidnapping Shelby and shooting her up with heroin, the corrupt FBI agents, etc. This nonsense goes on for a long stretch until a breaking news alert on TV announces it's one hour until the ATI signal goes live. You can almost hear the movie say "Oh shit, we forgot the heist!" as the distracted characters don't appear to have done jack shit in terms of planning a $1 billion job. Olivier Megalong also has no idea what to do with DISTRICT 9's Sharlto Copley--serial overactor and today's top box-office Flop Indicator (© Bob Cashill)--as Sawyer, a desk cop who's introduced in the opening act killing a tweaker in self-defense, thus awakening a dormant ticking time bomb within. At least it seems that way (and he has a shady past, with newspaper clippings taped up all over his apartment detailing a questionable shooting in his past), but then he vanishes for well over an hour before reappearing out of nowhere in the third act. Copley turns in one of his more restrained performances, believe it or not, but frankly his entire role could've been cut with the story losing nothing whatsoever aside from 15-20 minutes of the oppressive run time.


Equal parts DISPHIT FAST & FURIOUS, DIPSHIT PURGE, DIPSHIT 1984, and DIPSHIT DEN OF THIEVES--which was itself DIPSHIT HEAT (© David James Keaton)--LAST DAYS can't figure out if it's a heist movie, a sci-fi movie, an Orwellian political statement, or an action movie, consequently failing to succeed on any of those fronts. The idea of a mind-control signal as a measure to prevent crime is prime sci-fi fodder, and it even introduces a chip that can be implanted in cops to make them immune to it, but wouldn't that seemingly encourage dirty cops? The film doesn't extrapolate on such issues. And if the signal stops those who "know" and internally acknowledge that they're doing something illegal, what about sociopaths who feel no remorse or guilt? Would the signal stop them? LAST DAYS tries to address that late in the game, but introduces the subject like some mind-blowing game-changer of a plot twist regarding one main character, but any intelligent viewer would've asked that question two hours earlier. And what about white collar crime? Or does the American Peace Initiative only pertain to illegal acts perpetrated by the lower class we see here, depicted across the board as a mob of subhuman criminals? Also, I realize this is based on a decade-old graphic novel and was shot a year ago, and was not intended as a social commentary on what's happening now, and makes no relevant observations during two-and-a-half hours of overstaying its welcome to the point where it could claim squatters rights, but considering some of its imagery and the current climate in America, perhaps Netflix should've read the room a little better and benched this one until things cooled down. Or at the very least, until someone could recut it and try to make a more reasonable 100-minute movie out of it.


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