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When I was handed a review copy of THE LAST VICTIM, the synopsis that came with it said it was a neo-western thriller, but I’m here to tell you that I never saw this movie as such. To me, this layered cat-and-mouse film set in New Mexico only feels like a Western because of its setting and the cowboy hats its characters wear. Instead, I saw this film as a throwback to classic noir, mixed with the writing styles of the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. If that sounds like high praise, that’s because it actually is. Let me explain.

THE LAST VICTIM begins with our villain Jake (Ralph Ineson) meeting someone at a diner to confront them. After a long winded conversation, Jake showcases his true feelings in violent fashion. It felt like the opening to a Tarantino film and I was immediately sucked in. Meanwhile Sheriff Herman Hickey and Deputy Mindy Gaboon (Ron Perlman and Camille Legg) banter back and forth as the small town’s reluctant team on the job of finding Jake and his gang of outlaws. To me, their comedic banter and the crime they need to solve all felt like it took inspiration from Coen Brothers films like Fargo or ‘O Brother Where Art Thou. It all felt really familiar but also really fresh since this wasn’t a film directed by Tarantino or either of the Coen Brothers, but by first-time director Naveen A. Chathapuram who also produced the film and helped create the story. Being so integral in the production as well as taking inspiration from other filmmakers just feels like another nod to the formerly named directors by Chathapuram.

One of my favorite genres of film throughout history has been the noir movement of the 1930s and 40s, and anytime that formula gets revisited I relish in it. One of the tropes of classic noir is the narration by one of the star characters and, in this movie, we get two characters that perform dueling narration with Jake and Sheriff Hickey. Ralph Ineson has been proving himself for a long time, most recently in films like The Green Knight and The Northman, and most memorably with a major role in the Ari Aster film, The Witch. He’s also been a part of major productions from Harry Potter to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but his role as Jake suits him so well and his presence in THE LAST VICTIM truly raises this film up from just another movie on my list to review, to a film I have to recommend because his performance is that fun.

The film’s biggest star in terms of name power, Ron Perlman, also puts on a pretty great performance, and as the other narrator, rides a great line between black comedy character and serious lawman. While Ralph Ineson plays a ruthless and sinister outlaw, Perlman plays his small-town sheriff a bit more friendly and continually growing as a person. Initially mocking Deputy Gaboon for her name and looks, their intimate conversations seem to be changing him into a caring and loving man.

That isn’t even all of the story as Susan (Ali Larter) also crosses paths with Jake and his gang, and while being lost out in the wilderness of New Mexico, tries to outrun them. Larter adds a key component to this cat-and-mouse film that complicates the story and creates a hero you can truly root for.

Chathapuram has created a film that feels very familiar, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s like a warm cup of chicken noodle soup for your movie-going soul. It has all of the elements you’d want in it: comedy, action, great dialogue, and thrills that keep you on the edge of your seat. As a first-time director, I’m very impressed by Chathapuram and I look forward to seeing where he takes me next.

THE LAST VICTIM arrives in theaters and will be available On Demand on May 13, 2022.

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