Somewhere in the wild west, sometime after the civil war, legendary outlaw Isaac LeMay (Sam Worthington) decides to take his fate into his own hands and circumvent a prophecy that he can only be killed by one of his own children. That means tracking down his many offspring and slaying them first, one by one. A man of very few words but blessed with an inordinate abundance of hair and uncanny luck when it comes to avoiding bullets, LeMay has a few talents, but not a lot of charm. Also, he’s clearly never read any fairy tales of Greek tragedies otherwise he’d know that an ironic twist lies directly in his path in the last act, one that most viewers will see coming from miles across the prairies and hilly terrain.
Meanwhile, LeMay is himself being tracked by various unaligned bounty hunters and folks with a grudge or cause, such as gun-and-tracker-for-hire Solomon (Thomas Jane), a former Union soldier who was raised by Native Americans, Cal (Colson Baker, AKA rapper Machine Gun Kelly) a son of LeMay who’s taken up the family trade of outlawing even though he never met his Pa. (In a couple of on-the-nose scenes the latter gets to operate an actual machine gun.) There’s also a daughter, Megan (Emily Marie Palmer), who seemingly felt slighted when LeMay declined to kill her, thinking she was too meek to pose a threat.
This is the sort of western in which most of the characters are covered in authenticity-guaranteeing dirt, dried blood and food stains, so as to signify the poor hygiene conditions of the period. Grotty mise en scene in westerns like this goes back a long way, at least as far as McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971), and got a big boost from the TV series Deadwood and arthouse westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The latter is clearly a touchstone for the moody, atmospheric soundtrack by Phil Mossman, once of LCD Soundsystem.
Mossman’s score and the filtered, painterly cinematography by David Gallego are by some distance the film’s most interesting features; the rest of the drama is in fact a slog, full of ponderous long takes and somewhat tinny dialogue. Weirdly, the cast seems stocked by performers who were once quite famous and seemed to have lapsed into lesser things, such as the aforementioned Worthington (Avatar), Jane (TV’s Hung) and Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, The Spy Who Shagged Me), here playing a saloon sex worker with deep connections to several of the characters.
• The Last Son is released on 8 August on digital platforms in the UK, and is out now in Australia.