The Last Shot

Hollywood's endless ability to mock itself rears its head once again in The Last Shot, one of those stories that would inevitably become a movie because it was so far-fetched in the first place.  The film is based on an article by Steve Fishman, which detailed how the FBI, in an effort to bring down some members of the mob, produced a movie to trap the mobsters in a sting.  The Last Shot may be based on actual events, but plays out like a little fairy tale that manages to extol the beauty and magic of the movies while playing up stereotypes and using well-worn jokes.  It has just enough heart to make it amusing, although adapter/director Jeff Nathanson (who also wrote The Terminal and Catch Me If You Can) does try a little too hard at times.

The mobster in question is Tommy Sanz (Tony Shalhoub, Against the Ropes, Made-Up), a low man on the totem pole in the Gambino crime family.  He is stuck in Providence, Rhode Island and has sway over the teamsters.  FBI Agent Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin, Along Came Polly, The Cat in the Hat) wants to hit the big time.  He just got moved from Dallas to Providence, and thinks that busting Sanz can get him to New York, where the real mobsters are.  His plan is to catch Sanz giving a bribe to the teamsters, and Devine figures the best way to do this is to pretend to make a film.  Here's where Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick, The Stepford Wives, Good Boy!) comes in.  Schats is one of those guys with Hollywood dreams that went nowhere.  He has been trying, with no luck, to sell his script Arizona for over five years.

Devine gets a hold of the script and agrees to produce it, and wants Schats to direct.  This is Schats' dream come true.  Devine does not let on that the movie will not be made, and is only for a sting.  Reality sets in, and Devine begins asking for changes.  The most egregious is the move from Hollywood to Providence.  How are they going to make a movie that takes place in Arizona in Providence (amusingly billed as "the Arizona of the East")?  The Grand Canyon figures prominently in the script, and there is nothing like it in Rhode Island.  Still, Schats wants to make his movie, so he reluctantly agrees, even as more people begin asking for changes.

The joke here is that while the movie is fake, the desire to make one becomes real.  As the story progresses, Devine becomes less of an agent and more of an actual producer.  He sees the enthusiasm that Schats has for his project, and he begins to feel the same way.  Even Sanz and Devine's superiors eventually want in on a multipicture deal.  When big name star Emily French (Toni Collette, Connie and Carla, Japanese Story) expresses an interest, this fake movie suddenly has a really high profile.  And as movie comes closer to fruition, the inevitability of the sting draws closer, which provides the necessary poignancy to bring everybody back down to earth.

Nathanson fills the roles with enough quirky characters to fill a British romantic comedy. Everybody has some random trait to make them more endearing or funny. One of the FBI Agents (Ian Gomez, Connie and Carla, Chasing Papi) wants to be the cinematographer. Schats' family works at a Western theme park. His girlfriend (Calista Flockhart, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Telling Lies in America) is a wannabe actress and they live together next to a kennel, because all the stars keep their pets there. Nathanson has the actors utter their lines than pause, almost as if they were waiting for a laugh track to tell the audience that whatever they said was funny. It actually has the opposite effect of making The Last Shot less funny, but the material is decent enough to keep the film afloat.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexual content.

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