Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Last Lullaby directed by Jeffrey Goodman (starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander)

The Last Lullaby (2009). Screenplay by Max Allan Collins and Peter Biegen, expanding on Collins's Quarry short story "A Matter of Principal."

Fans of Max Allan Collins's Quarry character have been waiting for a movie starring their favorite hired killer since he debuted in the 1970s. It took thirty years, but it's worth it. The Last Lullaby is here, and it's definitely a Quarry film, though the lead character isn't named "Quarry" (Collins wants to retain the rights to the name, so filmmakers can't make "sequels" without his input).

Retired killer Price (Tom Sizemore), on one of a string of sleepless nights, drives to a nearby convenience store and follows two suspicious characters to a kidnapping site, where he rescues the victim ... sort of. Six months later, he's offered $1 million for one last job: kill a librarian with ex-boyfriend troubles. But he gets emotionally involved, which puts them both in danger.

Collins's Quarry short story "A Matter of Principal" (upon which the first part of The Last Lullaby is based) was made into a short film by director Jeffrey Goodman. (This short film is available on the DVD Shades of Noir, available in the Max Allan Collins's Black Box DVD set.) Collins liked the short so much, he allowed Goodman to expand it into a feature, provided Collins was involved in the scripting.

An early draft of Collins's initial script was novelized by the author and published as part of the Hard Case Crime line as The Last Quarry. Readers of that novel will find a similar tone and characters but some significant differences made in turning the story into a mainstream (if independent) film. For example, co-screenwriter Peter Biegen was evidently brought in to punch up the love story. (Collins's novelized version is much tougher.)

What really makes The Last Lullaby work, however, are the lead performances by Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, who plays the librarian. Tom Sizemore's stony countenance betrays selective emotions, letting his eyes do the acting. And Sasha Alexander (Rizzoli & Isles) is an intelligent beauty with her own secrets.

A veteran of mostly television work, Alexander holds her own opposite Sizemore, and one hopes that The Last Lullaby allows her to possibly break out from the small screen. Goodman understands human drama and the complexities of male-female relationships and lets this carry the viewer along as events conspire against the couple.

Sizemore gets to show his tender side as one half of a potential couple of loners who aren't young anymore and really want to impress each other. Both actors bring incredible sexual magnetism. At the same time, it's incredibly sweet to see a romance between two such people treated with realism and delicacy, making The Last Lullaby a surprisingly good option for a date movie, even given its unremittingly dark storyline.

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