‘Last Looks’ Review: Strange Beard Time for Charlie Hunnam and Mel Gibson
It takes some nerve to cast a scandal-ridden star like Mel Gibson as the colorful TV celebrity suspected of killing his wife. Those who have supported Gibson despite the actor’s multiple attempts to sabotage his own career will likely admire the sass of “Last Looks,” even if his flamboyant (and mustachioed) name Alastair Pinch — a borderline-blotto, Colonel Sanders-looking Le Southern judge on a show called “Johnnie’s Bench” – is just a side character (the prime suspect) in a crowded Hollywood detective story that has some stuff to burn.
The ringmaster of this three-ring circus is one Charlie Waldo (Charlie Hunnam, looks like he hasn’t shaved since “Sons of Anarchy”), a disgraced former LAPD golden boy with facial hair. even wilder than Pinch. It’s like a pandemic beard minus the pandemic.
A few years earlier, Waldo left the grid after realizing he couldn’t undo the wrongful conviction that had launched his career. Where is Waldo now? Living in self-imposed exile – or “extraction”, according to the awkward opening voiceover – in Idyllwild, having reduced everything he owns to just 100 possessions. Like so many “Last Looks,” this detail is fun, if distracting, but then moviegoers have absorbed more than their share of SoCal PI stories over the years, from “The Long Goodbye” to “Inherent Vice,” and more often than not, the very thing we ultimately remember about this genre is the concocted eccentricity they managed to serve up along the way.
Which probably explains the quirky sunglasses, fruity suits, and idiosyncratic personalities of nearly everyone involved. Everything comes with territory, and director Tim Kirkby successfully walks the line between maintaining a flippy, irreverent tone and laying everything down a little thick. Season 1 of “Brockmire” was its baby, as was the “Fleabag” pilot, both of which should give an idea of how Kirkby can go big on style without smothering his characters’ complex psychology.
Hunnam (who also produced) is the main attraction here, and Waldo suits him, partly because the actor seems so uncomfortable with his own good looks and is always looking for ways to demonstrate that there’s more for him below the surface. The suburban Sherpa shtick of the first two-thirds of the movie is fun enough, but also a little over the top, like the Timberlake fedora and bright yellow fixie (Waldo has sworn off fossil fuels) – an assignment that just begs to be reversed. And yet, Hunnam himself separated himself from the herd enough for this independent streak to carry over to the character. What case (or scenario) would encourage one or the other to come back?
Although Waldo makes a big show of not wanting to come back, he protests more than he resists. After ex-lover Lorena (Morena Baccarin) drives to his trailer, hoping to convince him to investigate whether Pinch really killed his wife, two separate parties show up and pressure him ( with fists and frying pans) not to take the case. But when his old flame is discovered burned alive in his car, the whole investigation becomes personal and Waldo agrees to look into Pinch’s possible innocence.
Some IP stories emphasize the heavy side of the conscience, featuring solitary scenes of the detective spilling booze at the piano or at the bar. “Last Looks,” adapted by Howard Michael Gould from his novel of the same name, boils down to a confessional exchange between Waldo and an unlikely therapist: Jayne White (Lucy Fry), a flirtatious teacher at the kindergarten where Pinch sends her daughter . As an absolution, she shaves his beard with a disposable pink razor, and Hunnam – uh, Waldo – emerges from all those shrubs looking at his true charismatic self.
The moment when Waldo emerges clean-shaven is more satisfying than the film’s grand finale, though Kirkby keeps the madness going until the end. Even those who only appear for a scene or two — like Dominic Monaghan as a seemingly coked up personal injury lawyer and Cliff “Method Man” Smith as a family-minded rapper named Swag Doggg — leave lasting impressions. .
As early as “The Big Sleep” (most notoriously convoluted noir), LA thriller makers realized that the minute-by-minute pleasures of following a case far outweigh the results. “Last Looks” isn’t as complex as that classic – all the clues are there, in plain sight, and Waldo delivers a long monologue at the end to explain how they fit together – but he finds the journey more interesting than the destination. Here, the looping journey has much the same sun-and-star feel as Elmore Leonard’s Hollywood adaptations (“Get Shorty,” “Be Cool,” and “Jackie Brown”), poking fun at an industry where stars can literally get away from murder…and the weirdest beard.