There’s some mild fun to be had with Last Looks’ particular soft noir style, but it ultimately registers as a pale imitation of something you’ve seen done better.
After suffering through what has seemed like decades of Tarantino knock-offs, it’s almost refreshing to come across a low-key Shane Black daylight-noir riff. The quirky characters, bursts of broad comedy, and dense plotting of Last Looks are very much in keeping with Black’s work in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and The Good Guys; think of it as L.A. Confidential-lite. Directed by journeyman Tim Kirkby, known primarily for TV work and the little-loved Johnny Knoxville vehicle Action Point, Last Looks follows the misadventures of Charlie Waldo (Charlie Hunnam), an ex-cop who now lives alone in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. He’s resigned himself to an acetic life of limited means, with one recurring gag detailing that he only owns “100 things.” A surprise visit from old flame Lorena (Morena Baccarin), asking for his assistance on a high level murder case, rouses Waldo from his self-imposed exile and entangles him in an intricate web of lies and deceit. It seems TV megastar and abusive alcoholic Alastair Pinch (Mel Gibson) might have killed his wife, but was so blackout drunk at the time that he can’t remember anything. Waldo is tasked with playing amateur private eye at the television studio’s request; the studio is in the midst of a potential blockbuster merger and can’t have one of their prized assets going to jail. And so, Waldo begins wandering around a simulacrum of L.A. (the film was actually shot in Georgia) while encountering a sexy kindergarten teacher, Jayne White (Lucy Fry), the abrasive studio head Wilson Sikorsky (Rupert Friend), Lorena’s employer Don Q (Jacob Scipio), a corrupt cop from Waldo’s past (a fun cameo from Clancy Brown), and a shady lawyer (a hilarious Dominic Monaghan). It’s a lot of moving pieces, as each character has their own agenda and mysterious ties to whatever happened to Pinch’s wife. Eventually, evidence begins to mount that Pinch might actually be innocent, and when Lorena turns up missing, too, it makes things extremely personal for Waldo.
Last Looks is amiable enough, an easygoing little thriller content to go through the motions of this particular genre. The early goings, at least, have a nice sense of momentum, with so many threads being juggled that sheer narrative density wins out. But it never quite gels, despite everyone’s best efforts. Hunnam makes a credible sad-sack detective, and his dead pan reaction shots to the various weirdos that surround him are funny enough. But much like Georgia makes for a mediocre stand-in for California, Last Looks never rises above being an imitation of other, better works. At least a couple of the aforementioned plot threads dead-end into a brick wall, all MacGuffin and no bite, while the film’s tone vacillates wildly from light comedy to glib caricature to deadly serious emoting. The chemistry isn’t quite right, and there’s no visual pizzazz to compensate for the narrative deficiencies. Indeed, while Kirkby manages his large ensemble with some dexterity, he has almost no sense of visual texture or what to do with the camera. There’s hardly a single interesting composition in Last Look’s 110-minute runtime. There’s some mild pleasures to be found here (fans of Hunnam and his propensity for showing off his chiseled physique will certainly be satisfied) but ultimately this is the off-brand, generic version of something you’ve seen done better.