You know, I love writing about the GBCU (Gerard Butler Cinematic Universe) on this blog, because I genuinely enjoy watching G-Bizzle perform. I know there are people out there who think I am doing this either a) because I have a huge crush on him or b) because I am ironically covering bad movies, but truthfully, I’m not (well, maybe a little of a), but he looks like he’s made of delicious Lorne square sausage, and a girl’s gotta eat, you know?). I’ve unironically been a big fan of him since I saw him in Den of Thieves and realised he was having such a bloody good time in all of his roles that I couldn’t resist more. One of the first articles on this very site was a review of a Gerard Butler movie; he’s got history here, you feel me?
All this to say that Last Seen Alive is really fucking dreadful, and I didn’t expect it to be. When I approach one of Gerard Butler’s movies – one with my beloved Ethan Embry in it, no less – I’m not expecting crap (though I often get it). But this? This is one of the perfect examples of how badly you can waste a leading man as great as Gerard Butler, if you don’t play your cards right.
Last Seen Alive – predictably – follows Will (Butler) after his estranged wife (Jaimie Alexander) is kidnapped by a mysterious assailant. Now, I’m not sure what it is about Gerard Butler and his on-screen wives, but he never seems to have much luck with them; frankly, at this point, he needs to put them on a keychain or something because it’s just getting embarrassing. But the reason people keep tapping into this set-up for Butler is because is does “frantic husband and/or father” really convincingly, and he gives good sweaty concern, which is exactly what a film of this nature calls for.
So, how do they manage to fuck up his character so badly? The biggest issue here, I think, is what a jumbled, irritating, textureless mess the plot is; we bounce from location to location, character to character, as Will tries to find out where his missing wife might have ended up, but none of it ever offers the escalation it needs to. The movie opens on Ethan Emgry’s villain revealing the film’s sort-of twist, and it completely strips the movie of a lot of its tension, but even if it didn’t make that basic storytelling mistake, it’s still just lacking in all sense of forward momentum.
Gerard Butler is an actor who can really convince in movies like Greenland or Geostorm, no matter how ridiculous they might be, because of his ability to adapt his characters to constant, exhaustingly escalating stakes. Last Seen Alive is the laziest possible version of this, sending Will stumbling from parking lot to parking lot as we squint at grainy CCTV footage that’s meant to build our fascination in the story. It’s a waste of his fun leading man-ness, his ability to ground the ridiculous. Why are you hiring Gerard Butler to do something this…bland? I’ve seen this man – twice – take on global ecological disaster, I think he can manage a bit more than wandering around some slightly dirty-looking caravans, you know?
Last Seen Alive’s greatest sin is how boring it is. This really feels like a by-numbers attempt at a shitty, populist action movie, and yes, I mean that int he snobbiest, bitchiest way possible. Wasting a couple of great, fun performers in this soulessly boring mess is a real let-down – it might not be the worst of the worst of the GBCU, but it is the least interesting, and that might be a bigger sin.
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By Lou MacGregor
(header image via Radio Times)
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