Directed by Jean-Marc Mineo, ‘Last Resort (2023, a.k.a Ultimate Ratio)’ would be a gratuitous test of patience for its viewers. And it is a test that only the most undemanding action aficionados could perhaps pass. This ‘Die Hard’ knock-off, starring Jonathan Patrick Foo, has the glossy surface of a neat action-thriller, and it does provide decent enough action set-pieces; but it falters in several of many basic filmmaking aspects. So much so that it is a task to take the film seriously.
The film starts with a former soldier (Foo), Michael, spending his days as a lazy bum. His wife and daughter, seemingly the far more active human beings, nudge him along. His wife is especially fed up with Michael’s lack of involvement in anything. So, obviously, we get to see the wife preparing the documents for divorce. The daughter, however, thinks the world of Michael as daughters do in such kinds of films.
Meanwhile, there is a city-level conspiracy unfolding. A team of mercenaries, led by the enigmatically ruthless Cooper (Clayton Norcross), has taken multiple hostages at a bank. The purpose of this crime seems to change every twenty-odd minutes. It starts with the intention of a bank robbery. As expected, the wife and daughter of our protagonist, Michael, get trapped with all the other hostages. This news and the fact that his wife and daughter’s phones became unreachable spring the hitherto inert Michael into action. We all knew what was going to happen. This is the starting point of the “One man versus an entire gang of mercenaries” action trope.
Clichéd, but this particular premise has produced multiple memorable action films. The aforementioned “Die Hard” to modern day’s “John Wick,” an action hero’s staple, is beating up bad guys with the flimsiest of excuses. Something most viewers have no problem with; one does not even have to be a fan of this particular genre to appreciate that.
The problem with “Last Resort” is sparse action sequences could not gloss over the glaring lack of the bare minimum when it comes to cinema that engages in storytelling. The ludicrously generic plot and even more laughably amateurish acting pull the film down rigorously. The action pieces are decent, and Mineo does a fair job of directing the battle sequences. Foo’s skill, especially, pays dividends in the hand-to-hand combat scenes.
However, Mineo also includes some unwarranted plot devices and does not astutely avoid the scope of conversations. Cooper’s gang’s motive perilously changes from robbery to hostage bargaining to the decimation of an entire city. It is as if Mineo could not decide how high the stakes should be when it was not even necessary to raise that by one notch. One should think that your wife and daughter’s lives being in danger is viable reason enough to put your fighting skills to use.
Perhaps Mineo decided that bigger reasons are required because the audience would be wholeheartedly aloof regarding Michael’s wife and daughter, as these two characters were abysmally portrayed by their respective actors. This is the case with all the supporting actors in this film. A single shot having any one of the supporting cast saying any sentence is enough to let you know the quality of the acting you are about to see on screen.
The two seemingly professional actors, Foo and Norcross, come across as golden. Not due to exemplary performances of their own but due to the tragic state of acting of their colleagues. Norcross, particularly, tries quite hard as the cutthroat villain, Cooper. Given the quality of his lines, one has to admit that he has done fairly well, despite his tendencies to go over the top. Foo, on the other hand, is stoic and acceptable as the brooding hero. He falters in some emotional scenes but mostly carries the film due to his charismatic presence in most of the action scenes.
As mentioned before, it is the effort from Foo, Norcross, and the well-choreographed action set pieces that keep this otherwise forgettable caper from being a colossal waste of time. If you have time and are in the mood for some action pieces and can overlook bad acting, then “Last Resort” might just work for you. You know, maybe as a ‘Last resort.’