The Last Producer
½*/**** Image C Sound B+
starring Burt Reynolds, Lauren Holly, Sean Astin, Benjamin Bratt
screenplay by Clyde Hayes
directed by Burt Reynolds
by Walter Chaw Seeing himself as Hollywood's last angry man (the film was originally and just as inexplicably called "The Last Producer"), Burt Reynolds, in the twilight of his benighted resurrection, jumps behind the camera to helm his self-starred anti-Hollywood tirade The Final Hit, which washes out as equal parts senior citizen grotesquery and unfocused satire. Wall-to-wall with Peter M. Robinson's excrescent scatty woo-bop score, The Final Hit, in discussing how Tinsel Town disdains the older generation of actors, proceeds to give the stage back to that same older generation and, in the process, demonstrates exactly why these people aren't getting much work.
Fading (and extinguished) luminaries such as the recently departed Rod Steiger, Ann-Margret, Charles Durning, Robert Goulet, and Reynolds himself mug and caper in desiccated simulacrums of former Method glory--if that. Drained of charisma and dangerously low on vitality, for each of this wheezing gallery to be outshone by B-lights like Greg Germain, Lauren Holly, and Benjamin Bratt is really the harshest criticism of the film that I can offer. It's not supposed to be pathetic, it just is.
Sonny Wexler (Reynolds) is a suit and open-shirt-wearing old school Hollywood personality who, in danger of losing a brilliant script (by Sean Astin...yep) to smarmy studio executive Damon Black (Bratt), enlists some questionable elements in the raising of fifty grand to keep his option. Steiger plays some kind of shady guy in a shroud of mumbles and failed attempts at not looking exhausted, and Ann-Margret gets to work her heavy-lidded narcosis into a character. The scenes the ex-siren shares with Reynolds are so repugnantly self-satisfied (all arch giggles and expansive Norma Desmond vamping) that I wouldn't have been surprised to see the corpse of von Stroheim playing "Toccata and Fugue" in the background.
All of The Final Hit has that whiff of dementia and eau de mothball--that forlorn wheedling aroma of marginally-talented performers realizing their days of bit-parts, camp posing, and audience indulgence have come to an end. The lack of irony exhibited by Reynolds, et al is the most tragic thing about the picture; I would have appreciated that as Reynolds states his contention that Hollywood "don't make 'em like they used to" for the umpteenth time, he didn't then jump into a beat-up gas guzzler like Bandit, J.J. McClure, or Stroker Ace and start handing it hillbilly-style to The Man.
For Reynolds, who's personally responsible for a few of the worst films in history (the actor was notorious for choosing projects that showcased his Neanderthal machismo), to now be taking a stance for the old guard rings of a self-serving sense of entitlement and a mortally embarrassing inability to appraise himself and his career with anything resembling objectivity. Overlong at ninety minutes and betraying neither coherence nor wit, The Final Hit is a series of monologues and star moments for a collection of minor actors incapable of making their soliloquies compelling audition material for future roles in films by kitsch visionaries.
Artisan's sparse production value exhibits itself on their DVD presentation of The Final Hit. The 1.85:1 anamorphic video transfer is marred by contrast problems and general digital blockiness. The Dolby 5.1 mix is so irritating in its faithful reproduction of the score that one hardly notices a couple of nice rear-channel and 0.1 rumblings during a Ferrari demolition and a yee-haw slow-speed chase accented by Reynolds's sad gesticulations. There are no fundamental differences between the Dolby 5.1 mix and the 2-Channel Dolby Surround alternative save the two car chases. A seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that is a more passionate-than-usual round of bootlicking and back-patting (with Reynolds getting the lion's share of the attention) and a ridiculous trailer round out the blissfully sparse presentation. I can think of no hell hotter than a Reynolds director commentary. Originally published: July 14, 2002.
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