Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Last Lullaby

The Last Lullaby, the feature film based on Max Allan Collins' short story "A Matter of Principal," is one of finest crime films I've seen in a long time. It is also unlike most crime films I've seen in a long time. When you have a hit man as the protagonist (Collins' famous Quarry character, here called Price) you expect wall-to-wall violence. While there's a good share of that what drives Lullaby is character.

I'd forgotten how good Tom Sizemore is. As Price he dominates the movie with his silence. Collins and co-screenplay writer Peter Biegen wisely limit Sizemore's dialogue to short responses for much of the film. He watches, he listens, he broods then he reacts. When he does speak at any length his words are all the more powerful for the contrast.

The set up is that Price has retired from being a hit man but is dragged back into the business when he's forced to kill a beautiful woman played by Sasha Alexander. He'd already gotten to know her when he saved her from a beating by her former boyfriend. Like Sizemore Alexander does her work quietly, subtly. There are layers to her performance. She's obvious at some points, unreadable at others. She's impossible not to watch.

One more actor who needs to be mentioned here and that's Bill Smitrovich. One of the many things that distinguishes Collins' Quarry novels is how he always shows the relationship between certain types of businessmen and the mob. Smitrovich;s Martin can be found at the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the church of his choice. He's an upstanding man. Except he's not. He needs the Alexander character killed and fast. Smitrovich turns him into an angry, frightened bully who is watching it all go away from him. A fine performance.

Director Jeffrey Goodman never sacrifices story and pacing for character but by film's end you care about the two principals far more than you usually do people in crime films. He has a gritty sense of small towns and an even grittier sense of people who want to escape themselves and their pasts.

This is a movie you really should see.


Anonymous said...

So when can we see it? Isn't it still making the festival circuit? This Collins fan is eagerly awaiting general release or DVD.

Lee Goldberg said...

I have to echo Ed's comments about the movie. It's terrific.