‘This Last Lonely Place’: Film Review

Courtesy of Indican Pictures
Doesn't generate much tension.

Writer-director Steve Anderson’s low-key thriller transpires almost entirely within the confines of a Los Angeles taxi cab.

Los Angeles' neon-lit nighttime streets once again play host to the tortured hopes and broken dreams of its most desperate denizens, all intent on making one final score before leaving the city behind in This Last Lonely Place. Displaying the superficial trappings of classic noir films, this lightweight update demonstrates too little of the genre’s trademark ingenuity or cold-bloodedness to maintain interest for long.

After shady, middle-aged investment banker Frank Devore (Xander Berkeley) finds himself the target of an SEC investigation, he decides to grab $7 million in loose cash and make a run for it. Before he can skip town, he needs to meet up with his much-younger mistress, so he hails a taxi to chauffeur him around while he’s killing time until she's available. As an Iraq War vet with a hearing disability, acquired on assignment with a bomb-disposal unit, cabby Sam Taylor (Rhys Coiro) has his own money problems. Hoping to reunite with his ex-wife and two daughters, Sam has been trying to raise a stake to relocate and join them in Hawaii, but driving a cab isn’t exactly making him rich.

So when Frank offers Sam several hundred dollars to turn off the meter and drive aimlessly around westside L.A. and Santa Monica while he swigs whiskey and plans his next move, Sam reluctantly agrees. He quickly regrets his decision after collecting Frank’s girlfriend Faye Gardner (Carly Pope), a combustible gold-digger who pulls a gun and threatens to off him if he doesn’t do as he’s told. What he’s told to do is abet a very serious crime that the two have committed, with the taxi providing their getaway. Frank and Faye can’t agree on how to cover their tracks, however, and their escalating disagreement raises the likelihood of a clash that could seriously jeopardize Sam’s safety, along with his plans to reconnect with his family.

As things are wont to go with noir thrillers, Sam’s situation is certainly not what it seems, but Anderson takes so long getting the plot engaged, as Sam drives his whiny fare through L.A.’s neon-lit nighttime streets, that by the time the femme fatale in the short skirt slides into the cab with a loaded gun, it seems like only some extreme action can shake off the draggy pacing. The writer-director gradually introduces some requisite conflict by way of awkwardly inserted flashbacks, along with equally ridiculous developments that disrupt the cab drive.

At least he knows how to shoot his way around a vehicle with ease, since the majority of the action takes place in Sam’s cab, as the trio repetitively circles the city and then heads up to Malibu before hightailing it for the highlands of the Antelope Valley. Sweating and puking whiskey in the back of the cab, Berkeley does his best to look desperate, while Coiro haltingly shifts from bored disengagement to agitated alarm, leaving Pope to provide some of the few moments of tension and unintended humor with her trashy bad-girl routine.

Distributor: Indican Pictures
Production companies: Santana Films, Industry Standard Films, Mudflap Films
Cast: Rhys Coiro, Xander Berkeley, Carly Pope, Richard Portnow, Jeananne Goossen, Erin Matthews
Director-writer: Steve Anderson
Producers: Steve Anderson, Jeff Marchelletta, Josh Mandel
Executive producers: Robbert de Klerk, Stephen Bogart, D. Hanna, Brad Willis, Mary Jeanne Russell, Brett Bozeman
Director of photography: Patrick Meade Jones
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Costume designer: Ise White
Editors: Steve Anderson, Jason A. Payne
Music: Jonathan Hartman
Casting directors: Wendy Weidman, Rebecca Mangieri

Not rated, 85 minutes