“The Last Days of American Crime” stars Édgar Ramírez, Anna Brewster, Michael Pitt, and Sharlto Copley. Released on Netflix on June 5, 2020, the film has a group of criminals planning the biggest heist of the century.
The film is directed by Olivier Megaton, who also directed films such as “Exit”, “The Red Siren”, and “Colombiana”, and it is based on the 2009 graphic novel of the same name by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. Every once in a while, we all wonder what our world will be like if everything was 100% peaceful. What our planet will be like if no one has committed a single act of unlawfulness. With everything that is happening right now, we really want this dream to become a reality. Thankfully, Netflix is here to give us that reality in the form of a crime thriller. It’s not exactly what we’re hoping for, but it’s better than nothing. The popular streaming service is continuing to take over this year’s summer movie season with a film that explores an alternate future where crime is wiped out of existence. This is Megaton’s latest film as a director since he concluded the “Taken” trilogy on a sour and disoriented note five years ago. If you’ve seen “Taken 2” and “Taken 3”, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This was obviously my only concern about this film, which is his filmmaking style, but other than that, it looked like something that could either be an entertaining thrill ride with a dash of political exploitation or an over-the-top and care-free mess that favors action over storytelling…or maybe even both. Let’s dive right into the future and see for ourselves.
Like I mentioned before, the film takes place in a not-too-distant future where the government is planning on initiating the program known as API (American Peace Initiative) that broadcasts a signal which stops everyone from committing an act of crime. This sounds like a dream come true on paper, but in reality, it’s actually described as a nightmare in which they can never wake up from. One of the many people who disagree with the program is Graham Bricke (Ramírez), a criminal who lost his brother due to an incident in prison. He decides to team up with another criminal Kevin Cash (Pitt) and his fiancee Shelby Dupree (Brewster) to pull off the greatest heist ever before the government releases the API signal worldwide. The film is made for mature audiences for several reasons including violence, language, and sex, because with Netflix, you can never have enough of those three reasons. What got me interested in the film is not just the fact that it’s an adult-rated thriller, but also the concept that’s somehow equivalent to what’s happening in real life. The government has been attempting to reduce the amount of crime for who knows how long, and their plans have their share of pros and cons depending on people’s perspectives and the situation they’re facing. This could’ve been something that would get people talking as well as fuel their action-packed needs. Unfortunately, under the direction of Megaton, it wound up becoming something that’s gonna leave plenty of viewers with a questionable and disappointing expression. From what I read about the film, it has been getting some backlash for being released during the ongoing George Floyd protests due to its violent nature and its representation of police brutality. But I don’t think that’s the overall issue with the film entirely since it was made before the protests even began. The main problem, in my eyes, is the execution. The film tried to combine the elements of both an epic crime drama and a standard, by-the-numbers action thriller with political themes, but it did it in a way that was both bland and tasteless, resulting in an overlong and convoluted mess that failed to accomplish two things: entertain our thoughts and provoke our thoughts. The biggest thing that hurt the film the most was its runtime, which clocks in at around two and a half hours. The first time I saw this piece of information, I was both surprised and concerned. With a plot as simple as the one from “American Crime”, you would think that they would’ve kept it to no more than an hour and a half, but no, they decided to make it into a thrilling action blockbuster. After seeing it for myself, I can definitely agree that it didn’t need to be that long. Save that runtime for the real blockbusters. The actors were all right in terms of the performances, especially Ramírez as Graham and Pitt, who did his best to put on an enjoyable show as Kevin. Aside from that, I actually really didn’t care about these characters. Now I know what you’re going to say. “Well, the characters are a bunch of criminals. Of course they’re going to be unlikable.” You’re right about that, but there are actually plenty of movies where the criminals as the main characters turn out to be fun and likable. This film isn’t one of those examples. The characters came off as weak and uninspiring, and the romance between Graham and Shelby (who was portrayed imperfectly by Brewster) was very forgettable and corny. The direction that Olivier Megaton was going for wasn’t all that impressive either, which is due to his inability to successfully combine the action thriller formula with the film’s political subject matter, aside from a couple of nicely-portrayed shots. On the bright side, the action sequences in the film weren’t as disoriented as the ones from the “Taken” follow-ups in terms of the editing. Thank goodness, that would’ve made the film even more unwatchable. As for the action scenes themselves, I thought they were okay. They can be a bit too violent and tasteless for some viewers, but like my experience with “Joker”, I didn’t think the violence in “American Crime” were excessively disturbing enough to earn the outrage.
Overall, in terms of the direction and the plot, “The Last Days of American Crime” is definitely a crime against action lovers and heist-thriller enthusiasts. Aside from a couple of passable performances and some watchable action sequences, the film squandered its intriguing concept by delivering a tedious and somehow offensive experience that overstayed its welcome and tried to force itself to become another epic crime blockbuster with unfortunate results. Now then, that just leaves me with one question: does it deserve the backlash it’s been getting? Well, let me answer that question with this: I think if Netflix had delayed the film until the protests die down, the controversy wouldn’t have been so severe as it is today, but that doesn’t mean the film would be better received. In the end, I can see that releasing this film in the midst of what’s happening is indeed tasteless, but when I put that aside and look at it from a mature perspective, I still see it as a disappointing mess that won’t impress a lot of fans of action crime thrillers as well as people who prefer pure escapism from the real world.