The Last Time
This review was written for the theatrical release of "The Last Time."
No one is quite who they seem to be in "The Last Time," a twisty drama set against the backdrop of the high-pressure advertising business.
But while Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser turn in a pair of sturdy performances, the film itself proves to be a harder sell, especially because it looks and sounds like Mamet but proves to be a flimsy knockoff.
Keaton's Ted is a foul-mouthed cynic who has been able to bully his way around New York's Bindview sales firm thanks to his status as the company's No. 1 sales guy.
Fraser's Jamie is an impossibly chipper, naive arrival from the Midwest whom Ted begrudgingly takes under his hard-edged tutelage.
Amber Valletta, meanwhile, is Belisa, ostensibly Ted's fiancee, though it's quite clear she's a woman who realizes the value of a better deal when she sees one.
It doesn't take too long for all three characters to shake off their prototypical shackles to reveal more intriguing shades, which is one of the pitfalls of writer-director Michael Caleo's con job of a script.
In order to move things along to conform to the dictates of the story's big-surprise ending, some of those character shifts transpire before the viewer has had a chance to at least think they've got a handle on the folks they're going to be spending time with for the next hour and a half.
Keaton and Fraser manage to navigate most of those sharp turns with conviction, but Valletta's portrayal of the problematic Belisa grapples with motivation issues every step of the way with little credible success.
Technical aspects are more convincing, with some nicely composed shots provided by cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt ("Office Space," "Grey's Anatomy") and a moody score by Randy Edelman that hints at the film's darker impulses.