Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Last Of The Finest

In the wake of the Iran-Contra scandal came this cops-and-robbers thriller that attempted to draw the audience’s attention to the corruption and double-dealing that infects our national government. Directed by Scotsman John Mackenzie, whose THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY is one of the great political crime dramas, THE LAST OF THE FINEST is enjoyable as a typical bang-bang action movie, but the extra subtext and social commentary give the film zest for more discerning audiences to mull over.

Tough Brian Dennehy (FIRST BLOOD) leads an elite unit of Los Angeles cops on the edge who don’t always go by the book, but get results. You know the type: goofy Bill Paxton (ALIENS), sensitive Jeff Fahey (THE LAWNMOWER MAN), and egghead Joe Pantoliano (MIDNIGHT RUN). The night of a big drug bust, Dennehy’s boss (HARRY O’s old foil Henry Darrow, an expert in projecting both malevolence and benevolence) orders the team to wait for backup, warrants, and probable cause, but that’s for pantywaists. The bust goes bad — drug lord Michael C. Gwynne (THE TERMINAL MAN) torches the evidence during the shootout — and a later clash with Gwynne’s hired killer results in the death of one of Dennehy’s cops. Before the LAPD brass can suspend Dennehy, he quits the force and his loyal colleagues follow suit.

Only pantywaists stop investigating when they lose their badges, so Dennehy and his boys go after Gwynne and his “legitimate businessman” boss Guy Boyd (BODY DOUBLE) on their own time. Not only do they have to keep a major drug investigation hidden from the LAPD, FBI, and DEA, they also become targets after ripping off $22 million of Boyd’s blood money.

Though Fahey is miscast as a Latino, he, Pantoliano, and Paxton share a good chemistry and work well under Dennehy’s leadership. Mackenzie and his writers, including Roger Corman alumnus George Armitage (DARKTOWN STRUTTERS), hammer the political angle too sharply, but the actors sell it. The action scenes and stunts are also sharply portrayed. Originally titled STREET LEGAL and POINT OF IMPACT, THE LAST OF THE FINEST received a halfassed release from Orion in March 1990, when it opened in 14th place.


Johny Malone said...

I really like this movie.

Glen Davis said...

Back when Brian Dennehy was a star.