This modern western is a case of Mo’ Country for Old Men, though not in an especially good way. An unusually sedate Ron Perlman takes the Tommy Lee Jones old-timer sheriff role, and Ali Larter substitutes for Josh Brolin in fleeing across the south-western scrub. Which would make Ralph Ineson’s criminal scumbag the Javier Bardem/Anton Chigurh equivalent, backed up by his penchant for creosote-throated, metaphysical ruminations in a voiceover that comes off like dimestore Cormac McCarthy: “People playing us like pawns on a chessboard. But what happens if those pawns don’t do as they’re told?”
With the influence weighing heavy, debut director Naveen A Chathapuram rigs up a creaking jalopy of storylines. Local badboy Jake (Ineson) kills a loose-tongued associate in a late-night diner, but is also forced to murder two witnesses. He takes the bodies out to the highlands where chum Bull (Kyle Schmid) suggests disposing of them in a nearby nature park. Not a good time for Susan (Larter) and husband to pitch up at the gates on a trip across the wilderness before she takes up an anthropology position at university.
The Last Victim, according to the quotation opening it, is a revenge story. But other than a hint that Jake’s jealousy over his ex-wife is what provoked the initial killing, you wouldn’t guess that, thanks to the threadbare characterisation. The sketchy motivations provided make it hard to get invested in the cross-country hunt that ensues. Really, Chathapuram is more interested in handing out meandering thoughts on human nature, but can’t bring them meaningfully into the action, including giving voice-of-experience Perlman anything useful to do.
On the ground, though, Larter is the one indomitable element. The former 00s scream queen overcomes a horribly shallow introduction, filled with much hair-twirling, and gives her fugitive a lean-faced desperation and ruthlessness. If Hollywood needs another seasoned femme action hero to follow Sigourney and Charlize, they could do a lot worse.
The Last Victim is available on digital platforms on 10 October.