Credit: Redbox/DECAL
by Paul Attard Featured Film Genre Views

The Last Son | Tim Sutton

December 10, 2021

The Last Son is ill-conceived and one-dimensional, yet another bid at mining a the Western mythos that trades only in outmoded tropes and iconography.

Playing like something of a po-faced version of any given series of missions in Red Dead Redemption, Tim Sutton’s The Last Son aims to be yet another definitive statement on the American western made about three decades too late to say anything original or insightful about the genre. It’s violent, moody, barbaric, and moralistic; yet, none of these elements ever cohere into anything greater than the sum of these meager parts. In other words, it’s all surface-level engagement with established genre tropes, except formally “elevated” (aka uses a lot of extreme wide-shots and long-takes) into a feature that mistakes narrative opacity with thematic mysticism. There’s at least one thing told upfront via voiceover narration: that Isaac LeMay (Sam Worthington) has been cursed; more accurately, his life has now been tethered to a predestined bloody fate. According to an ancient prophecy, he’s to be killed by one of his offspring, which leads him to indiscriminately murder nearly every last one of his living children, hunting them before one of them makes the first move. As it stands, LeMay was something of a philanderer, bearing a countless number of offspring to any number of prostitutes — but the only one of any real importance (besides one other, who factors into the narrative’s end goals in a woefully obvious way), as it turns out, is a murderous outlaw himself. The devilish Cal (Colson Baker aka MGK aka Machine Gun Kelly) seeks to enact revenge against his father for the physical and emotional pain he’s caused his mother — and also for not being hugged enough as a kid, as this is yet another case of Daddy Issues being a defining character trait for a pensive lead. Their paths will eventually cross, because they sort of have to or else there’s no movie, and the outcome of said events will be predictable and not the least bit self-aware of how calculated most of its story beats are. 

This is to say that there’s a clear vision on display, but a lack of clarity about how exactly to pull it off. The Last Son knows what it wants to say, but doesn’t really know how to say it; it hops around different perspectives hoping to find some throughline that never emerges. Most prominently, this is demonstrated in the eventual third-wheel of the film, a Cheyenne-raised white lieutenant named Solomon (Thomas Jane), who’s pursuing both LeMays and serves as the feature’s moral center. His character never develops beyond pure exoticism, with his chin tattoo and natural talents for tracking offering the defining traits by which he’s most recognized; and of course, no actual Native American actors could be hired for this role because apparently it needed to be a Caucasian guy raised by them, one who speaks with a broken accent and is characterized solely by his bland stoicism. The rest of The Last Son is equally as ill-conceived and one-dimensional, a work that’s difficult to invest much energy into on account of how little it ever gives back. It simply continues to build momentum until it suddenly collapses under its own weight, and the weight of even casual scrutiny.