Music Box Films, distributor of such films as “Monsieur Lazhar” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” releases “Last Ride”, an austere, character driven piece dealing with relationships, barren geography and deep emotional motivations directed by Glendyn Ivin making his film directorial debut.
Kev (Hugo Weaving) and his 10 year old son Chook (Tom Russell) are travelling through various parts of Australia, stopping in ramshackle towns to sleep or steal supplies. Kev will not win a Father of the Year award anytime soon. He has criminal tendencies which enable him to leave his son in strange places while he drinks in bars and gets into pub fights. And that is the better stuff that he does. When the film begins there is no explanation for their current lifestyle but slowly bits and pieces are revealed as to why they are living a vagabond lifestyle. To say any more might ruin the nice plot moments that happen throughout the film. I knew almost nothing of the film and I was intrigued the entire time as I learned new facets of Kev and Chook’s story. The opening shots of “Last Ride” show a boy walking through an automobile junkyard at dusk with a rifle looking for a rabbit. It is a terrific tone-setter for the remainder of the film. He is surrounded by cold, abandoned entities that create an extensive landscape. It’s an intriguing opening that relates to actions later in the film creating a nice story arc.
There is a strong presence of parental behavior shaping and how it can affect generations. The ‘like father, like son’ theme is a very large part of this film even though it is only subtly hinted at. In this family, people are taught tough lessons to harden them. Even though it gets an immediate response, it will most likely negatively mold and shrink a young person’s way of thinking. Through all the hardships there is genuine love between the two. Kev doesn’t seem hassled by the idea of toting around a 10 year old boy. He emits a sense of proud authority by having the responsibility even though his actions don’t always show it. As for Chook, all he knows is a life that is lived on the road. He allows his father to steal things without judgment, even if he never really actively participates in the crimes. Chook just sees it as a way to survive.
“Last Ride” is mostly a two person show with only occasional secondary characters interacting with them. Only one other character gets some extended screen time and she is gone by the end of the first act. The acting in is terrific. Weaving’s Kev is a scary individual that teeters from being a buddy type of dad who tries to impart some earthly or historic wisdom to flipping a switch and lashing out at the boy. It is a terrific Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type performance by Weaving. One of his strengths as an actor is the ability to contort his face into severely expressive shapes depending on what emotion he wants to portray. There are multiple scenes where Kev will be charismatic and charming until someone does something that instantly sets him off. Weaving has always been a compelling actor to watch and this is his best work yet. Tom Russell is equally compelling as Chook. There are many scenes that require showing moments of deep contemplation and he comes off as naturally believable. It is also a physically brave role and he is asked to endure some traumatic physical moments as well as some disturbing visuals as well.
The Australian countryside is another great benefit to the film. Whether it’s a sandy, ramshackle town they are passing through or mostly drained lake that makes the characters look like they are walking on water, it’s all beautiful. There is an organic quality to it as it is all naturally lit which show realistic harsh shadows. It matches perfectly with the tone of the story.
Music Box presents “Last Ride” in its original aspect ratio of 2:35. There are many directorial decisions giving the film a naturally greenish hue due to the landscape. The brightness of the sun can sometimes make scenes look overblown and drained of color but it works to the film’s benefit. Most of the scenes are naturally lit which does not over-beautify the surroundings. The DVD quality is pretty darn good. There are no macro blocking or compression issues during the darker scenes. There is a fine natural grain which gives the film a cinematic feel.
There are two audio tracks on the disc. The first one is a Dolby 5.1 surround and there is a stereo track as well. Both sound high-quality and dialogue is clear. This is a dialogue heavy with only a limited amount of musical guitar cues. There is some good LFE and directionality between speakers when needed.
The main extra is an audio commentary by director Glendyn Ivin and his cinematographer and editor. It’s always interesting to hear young directors talk about their production successes and woes. It’s a good listen for anyone who likes to hear about the act of making a movie with discussions about lighting and working with kids, animals and the like. There are two short films by the director, “Cracker Bag” and “The Desert”. A behind the scenes featurette is next which is broken up into five smaller parts that have runtimes that vary between three and four minutes long. The most interesting one being Tom Russell going around to various cast and crew members interviewing them. There is a short documentary entitled “Seven Emu: This is Where we Live” which is about the region where most of the movie was filmed. Lastly is a theatrical trailer.
“Last Ride” is a terrifically made film with outstanding performances and tight direction. It is a deep character driven piece taking place in a barren yet beautiful Australian setting. It is currently only available in the U.S. on DVD but the picture and audio are exceptionally strong. With short yet interesting extras, “Last Ride” comes highly recommended.