DVD Review: Last Ride

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Glendyn Ivin | CAST: Hugo Weaving, Tom Russell, Anita Hegh, John Brumpton, Sonya Suares, Kelton Pell
DVD RELEASE DATE: 10/16/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: commentary, two short films, featurettes
SPECS: NR | 100 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Some film dramas are all about the story; cinematic page-turners that keep you glued from start to finish. Then there’s that other kind of drama, the one that aims toward painting a character portrait rather than constructing a riveting plot. This can be dangerous territory- if the cast and crew don’t bring their A-Game, they end up with a plodding, 2-hour movie that goes nowhere.

At first, the Australian sleeper hit Last Ride seems like it might be heading in that direction: scumbag ex-con Kev takes his 10-year-old son Chook on a road trip across the Australian outback as he attempts to escape the police (p.s. – he just murdered someone.) If this seems like familiar narrative territory, that’s because it is- from the slow pacing to the wide shots of humans among silent, natural beauty, Badlands did it first, and many poor copies have followed.

Last Ride movie scene

Hugo Weaving serves up some tough love for son Tom Russell in Last Ride.

Last Ride is no watered-down ripoff, however- it manages to surprise your mind and tug at your heartstrings in a fresh and genuine way, thanks to some evenhanded directing by newcomer Glendyn Ivin and two incredible actors who keep it all together. 11-year old Tom Russell does a stand-up job playing a conflicted son who’s grown up in the worst of environments and is now stuck with the man who he most loves and hates. Scene after scene, he quietly establishes a strong presence rare for someone so young.

But it’s Hugo Weaving (Lord of the RingsElrond and, more recently, Captain America‘s Red Skull) who steals the show as an equally-conflicted criminal/father, convincingly portraying a person who can have no value system whatsoever yet still feel genuine love for his son, despite his utter disregard for human life everywhere else. As the fugitives push on, the beautiful Australian outback serves as both a contrast to their tumultuous relationship and a reminder that the human animal, complicated as it might be, is just one element of a much greater organism.

Though Last Ride clearly follows a certain school of filmmaking (somewhere between Malick and Cassavetes with an Aussie flair) it adds its fair share of great cinema, mostly in the quiet, unspoken moments between father and son, the former finding a sliver of redemption in an otherwise pointless life, the latter in his ability to grow beyond his environment and take responsibility for his actions.

With a name like Last Ride, the ending should come as no surprise, but that’s clearly the point. Somehow, this character-focused film manages to tell a great story as well, one that will resonate long past the credits. DVD Bonus features includes the usual commentary and behind-the-scenes featurette, a documentary about wildlife conservation in Australia, and two of Glendyn Ivin’s short films, one of which won him the Palme D’Or at Cannes.


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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.