One of the most interesting things about Naveen Chatapuram’s directorial debut The Last Victim is that, by the end, the viewer is left questioning who truly is the titular character of the film. Without going deep into spoilers, the way certain scenes play out makes you question if the said person is who we initially thought it is or if it’s someone else who has a connection to the character. It’s just a pity that the rest of the movie feels so routine leading up to it.
Borrowing heavily from other neo-westerns preceding it, especially the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, there is so little about The Last Victim that sets itself apart from the movies that influence it. There are some unexpected twists as the plot thickens, and that keeps it semi-interesting. But its formulaic approach drags it down.
The film opens with a murder in a small town in New Mexico. Jake (Ralph Ineson) seeks vengeance on someone who did him wrong. He kills that person and then kills the owner of the restaurant in which the opening scene takes place.
While Jake is supposed to be menacing and scary, Ineson’s portrayal is surely to draw numerous comparisons to Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Ineson, a solid actor in Robert Eggers’ The Witch and The Northman amongst many other credits, is slightly convincing but it becomes too distracting when thinking about just how much he is mirroring Bardem’s much scarier and more evil character. What’s even more of a disservice is the constant and unnecessary voice-over narration that Ineson is saddled with throughout.
This small town murder draws the attention of Sheriff Hickey (Ron Perlman) and his partner, Deputy Gaboon (Camille Legg). As they try to solve the crime, they also exchange banter with each other. Mostly, it’s Hickey who consistently calls his partner “gay boon.” While Perlman can deliver even some of the most confounding lines of dialogue, what he’s given here seems to be more of a chore than normal. Perlman does get in a few funny lines here and there, and his overall performance shows that gives it some effort. But there’s also this feeling that it needs to be more.
On the other side of this is the plot about Susan (Ali Larter) and her husband Richard (Tahmoh Penikett). They are moving for Susan’s new job when Richard decides to take a detour along the way. Unfortunately, they run into Jake and his crew, and Richard is killed. Susan must then flee and hope to make it out of this ordeal alive.
One wishes that, with a cast as solid as the one here, there would be more to it than what is presented. All the actors involved are fine, with Larter being the standout here. She goes from living an OCD lifestyle to scared but determined in a matter of moments, and she’s able to take command of her performance with zero hesitation.
The Last Victim isn’t necessarily terrible. It’s just 111 minutes of wasted potential. The neo-western genre has had some success post-No Country for Old Men and Hell or High Water. But it also has many imitators that don’t exactly know how to set themselves apart from the pact. This one can be filed in the latter category.