Run Time: 95 Mins
What To Expect: Taut, clean entertainment; no politics, just fast-paced action and thrills.
A new action-thriller from director Brian Goodman (2017’s Black Butterfly with Antonio Banderas), Last Seen Alive seemingly appeared out of nowhere, dropping in a handful of cinemas in select territories with absolutely no fanfare. At the time of writing this review, a release date for the United States and the U.K. has not even been announced; only Australia and the Netherlands have seen it so far. Despite this, and despite its current 5.8/10 rating on IMDb (plus the three middling user reviews), Last Seen Alive is deserving of your attention whenever it becomes available to you. Led by the reliable Gerard Butler, this is a taut, gritty action-thriller that moves at an agreeably frenetic pace and never becomes bogged down in extraneous subplots or politics. It certainly emanates more gravitas than your usual, bog-standard direct-to-video revenge film starring the likes of Steven Seagal.
Will Spann (Butler) is a well-off real estate developer going through a rough patch with his wife, Lisa (the beautiful Jaimie Alexander), who committed an act of infidelity and needs a break from their marriage. The two are travelling interstate to Lisa’s hometown for her to stay with her parents while she works things out, but, after a somewhat tense exchange, she mysteriously vanishes during a pitstop at a gas station. Will immediately springs into action to find her and brings in the local authorities to assist, but he cannot sit idly by while the police conduct their official enquiries in the crucial hours after her disappearance. Determined to do whatever it takes to safely retrieve his wife, Will pursues his own leads, leading him to uncover the town’s seedy criminal underbelly.
Written by long-time movie producer Marc Frydman (his second screenplay credit), Last Seen Alive is relentless and no-nonsense from the word “go”; in fact, Lisa’s abduction occurs within the first ten minutes. With the feverish pace and the lack of narrative flab, it reminded me of the Kurt Russell/Jonathan Mostow movie Breakdown, though the scope is more modest and there aren’t any expensive set-pieces. Indeed, the thrills here are derived from smaller moments, such as a tense scene in which Will sneaks into a suspect’s trailer and gets into a brutal brawl, or a sequence of Will sneaking around a drug camp trying his hardest to remain undetected. This is not to imply that the movie feels cheap or nasty, however; on the contrary, it feels expensive and skilful outside of a few moments (there’s a shonky-looking digital explosion in the third act that won’t impress anybody). Nevertheless, the screenplay feels overly clichéd at times and the dialogue is fairly standard – there’s not much in the way of wit or humour. Then again, I doubt anybody expected sharp dialogue.
Last Seen Alive is, thankfully, an R-rated action thriller. I went into the cinema blind and unaware of its rating (I took my mother, who loves Gerard Butler), but the word “motherfucker” is literally said within the first ten seconds of the flick (in the first line of dialogue), before the movie’s freaking title card. Do not expect non-stop profanity or excessive bloodshed, but the movie does not shy away from bloody bullet wounds or swearing, nor does it feel like it’s pulling any punches. Action is sparse but brutal and effective; easy to follow, with solid choreography despite some set-pieces taking place in dim locations. Butler expectedly shines in the leading role; although he’s not on the same level as Stallone or Schwarzenegger (not even close, of course), he’s a reliable action star who looks believable when wielding a firearm. Those of you who enjoyed Butler’s turn as Mike Banning in the Fallen movies (not to mention Copshop and Den of Thieves) will have a good time with Last Seen Alive.
Mid-budget, R-rated action-thrillers like Last Seen Alive are becoming rarer in 2022, as the genre is mostly dominated by direct-to-video rubbish, and studios are more concerned with superhero movies or agenda-driven pap, which makes this one all the more refreshing. It would not surprise me if this screenplay was first written back in the 1990s, as the narrative is gloriously old-fashioned in all the best ways (I’ve mentioned Breakdown but I was also reminded of Frantic with Harrison Ford). This is a throwback, old-school manly movie that’s worth your time for fans of the genre.