ICYMI: The Last Shot (2004)
Who hasn’t dreamed of making their own movie? Walking on a busy film set, rubbing elbows with Hollywood royalty, inspiring multitudes of artists and crafts people to follow your vision and making movie magic. Based on my own limited experience it’s often more chaotic than a day at Comic Con. But such is the cherished dream of many and the focus of 2004’s The Last Shot. Supposedly based on a true story, it involves an FBI plan of making a real movie as a part of a mob sting operation. The film was written and directed by Jeff Nathanson, best known for his screenwriting work on Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal. The film is funny and surprisingly insightful about the film business, think of it as a more comedic version of Argo.
The film stars Alec Baldwin as an imaginative FBI agent who devises a plan to take down the Rhode Island based mob via their trucking industry. What better way to get trucks than for a movie? Baldwin gets a crash course in the film industry from the truly hilarious Joan Cusack as a proto-typical Hollywood producer who throws enough attitude and names at him that he never gets his initial inquiry answered, “What exactly does a producer do?” His first task, much like Ben Affleck’s in the previously mentioned 2012 Oscar winner, is to find a script. Matthew Broderick provides the screenplay as a part-time usher and full-time Hollywood dreamer. The initial byplay between Baldwin and Broderick is very charming as the former tries to sound like a seasoned producer and the latter is willing to believe anything he says if it means he can finally make his movie.
The first obstacle comes from the fictional screenplay entitled Arizona. Broderick cannot understand how you film a movie that takes place in the southwestern desert in Rhode Island but Baldwin is able to jump through enough hoops. Baldwin even gets the city of Providence on board as they start advertising themselves as “The Arizona of the East.” The second obstacle comes when the lead role, which Broderick has promised to his long-time girlfriend (Calista Flockhart), attracts the attention of an actual Hollywood star, Emily French (Toni Collette). Not sure which Hollywood diva that Collette is channeling but she steals every scene she is in. The third obstacle comes when both the FBI and the mob start believing they are part of the artistic process and are offering every suggestion they can think of. The mob is represented by none other than Tony Shaloub, who again proves his comedic gravitas.
How The Last Shot fell through the cracks, I will never know. Baldwin and Broderick make an engaging pair (I would love to see them in another movie) and the supporting cast of Cusask, Collette, and Shaloub is stellar. Maybe it was seen as being too easy to make fun of Hollywood but when it’s done sharply like this or in another gem like David Mamet’s State and Main, I am always game.