Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Review: "The Last Thing He Wanted" is a fairly straightforward, familiar political thriller

The Last Thing He Wanted
It could not be any more clearer than it is now that we are in the midst's of the streaming service wars. Obviously, I have known this for awhile, but it becomes clearer and clearer to me every day. Each streaming app that is available today are all competing relentlessly for our hard earned dollars. When Netflix first began, most of their original movies were indie fare they bought from film festivals throughout the year. While they are still doing that to an extent, it is becoming much more competitive. They are beginning to throw big money at big name stars and big name filmmakers to create worthwhile content, to veer people away from the lines and the crowded seats of the multiplex and just to enjoy hit, original movies in the comfort of your homes. It nice to see a platform that is about pushing stars and story instead of relying on a brand to make money. At the same time, Netflix continues to be a television giant rather than an all-purpose place for media.

There are tons of great actors in "The Last Thing He Wanted," a recently released movie on Netflix. It stars Anne Hathaway as a political journalist in 1984, covering the Reagan years. I love Anne Hathaway. I am not crazy about her off-camera ego, but when she commits to a character, she commits. She plays Elena McMahon. Elena McMahon is played like a typical hardened journalist we see in movies. She presses for the story, asks the tough questions, she isn't intimidated by anybody. Anne Hathaway does a typical good job here bringing her together. She is our eyes for the story that is about to unfold and she takes us by the hand and guides us reasonably.

Willem Dafoe plays her father, Richard McMahon. They've been estranged for several years and come back together after Elena's mother dies. Elena's mother was taking care of Richard as he was dying, a job that now falls on Elena. Willem Dafoe is also very good here, creating yet another memorable supporting character. What Elena soon begins to realize that as she is taking care of father, she also begins to take care of his secret business in weapons dealing. She soon becomes way over her head, as she responds to the fast-lane world of weapons dealing. 

This sounds like something that should be amazing, right? Well, it ends up being a mixed bag. The performances are top-notch. But its fairly familiar territory if you know your political thrillers. Things are done out of convenience to plot, rather than anything realistic or logical. Consider a scene where Elena is being driven around by a dangerous smuggler, where he, literally, gets scared driving at night, sees some tall grass. This allows him to drop the gun he had on Elena. She promptly picks it up and puts it on him, taking over the car. She kicks him out and drives away. It never explained how she really knows where she's going. Its never explained how a journalist with no experience with weapons knows how to work a gun. We just kind of have to go with it.

Ben Affleck plays Treat Morrison, a high-level government official. He eventually becomes romantically linked to Elena when he discovers a glitch in her documentation. As she is moving around doing arms deals. Of course they become romantically involved. Its like we can't just have a movie without the cliches of what came before. I've also always liked Ben Affleck, that's another fringe opinion of mine, but I do think he's become even better as a performer as the years pile on. I just wish he was given something more compelling to do here.

I'm not trying to say that Netflix hasn't had any hits yet. I still religiously love "Roma," "The Irishman" and "Marriage Story." Still, with those three hits, I'm not sure the rest of their movie catalog is another to get new potential customers to buy their service monthly. Its still fairly new for the streaming wars, so it will be interesting to see how they continue to unfold. But I hope the platform can get a little more aggressive with their offerings. They don't need to just buy up everything they see. Make it quality!

FINAL GRADE: C

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