A grim and gritty Western cursed with a fractured narrative
The Last Son is not your typical Western. Sure, there are saloon fights, bank robberies, and high street shootouts, but this is more of a mood piece than a gun-blazing story about feuding outlaws duking it out with one another.
The mood is one that is downbeat, being both grim and foreboding, in director Tim Sutton’s 19th-century set movie. With a doom-laden plot set against a bleak wintry backdrop, you won’t find much to lift your spirits but if you’re looking for a Western that is dark and violent, this might just fit the bill, provided you can forgive a narrative that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the characters or the events that take place within the story.
The main character is Isaac LeMay (Sam Worthington), an ex-army man turned notorious outlaw who embarks on a quest to kill his own children. Why would he do such a thing? Well, after years of committing violent atrocities against the Cheyenne people, he is confronted by a North American elder who curses him to death at the hands of one of his bloodline. As LeMay doesn’t know which of his offspring will finish him off, he hunts them down one by one to end them before he is marked for death himself.
Killing his own kin isn’t all that difficult for the outlaw as he isn’t exactly ‘father of the year’ material. He fathered the kids with various prostitutes and as has had little to no contact with them since, he doesn’t seem to give a second thought about wiping them all out!
For much of the screen time, LeMay spends more time brooding than killing, however, but the violence when it does come is swift and brutal and expertly shot. But Worthington’s outlaw isn’t the only one with blood on his hands as much of the film is centred around the ‘last son’ of the title, Cal (Colson Baker), who has followed in his father’s footsteps. Like his dad, he also joined the army and later became an outlaw, where he then spent most of his time hunting down and murdering law officials with his Gatling Gun and robbing banks with his loyal crew.
It’s clear that Cal isn’t as easy to dispose of as some of LeMay’s other children and the film’s director ensures we get ample time with both characters so we can learn about their brutal and unforgiving ways before they eventually cross paths for an inevitable showdown. We also get to spend some time with another of LeMay’s children, Megan (Emily Marie Palmer), who is far gentler than her father and half-sibling but who is also forced to take a stand during the movie’s abbreviated plotting.
The movie’s harsh winter backdrop is the perfect setting for a story about two cold-hearted men with murder on their minds. The cinematography by David Gallego is excellent and he ably captures the vastness of the snow-drenched mountains that surround the town and woodland locations where the movie’s action takes place. The portentous music score adds to the feeling of gloom and together with the visuals, helps to evoke a feeling of dread in the viewer as the movie’s characters embark on their respective journeys towards one another and quite possibly, their maker!
Worthington and Baker are great in their respective roles and they have far more to do than Thomas Jane and Heather Graham, who also star in the movie. Jane plays an army officer who is initially on the hunt for Cal but who is later hired by bounty hunters to track down LeMay, and Graham takes on the role of a prostitute who bore LeMay’s twin children, one of whom was Cal. Both actors do their best with what they have been given but as their characters are quite thinly-written, they aren’t as compelling as the father and son that take centre stage for much of the movie’s brief runtime.
There is much to like about The Last Son, with its sweeping scenery and fascinating story, but there are gaps in the narrative that prove to be quite frustrating. There is one scene in the movie when LeMay is captured and placed in a prison cell. He later escapes from the cell but as to how he does it, we don’t really know. The scene skips ahead to the moment when he has managed to become free without telling us the ins and outs of his sudden breakout.
There are other moments in the plot that are equally as irksome, such as the various face-offs between characters who manage to find one another within the vast Nevada backdrop, with little indication of how they may have tracked each other down. The lack of cohesion between scenes may be down to the movie’s editing, but whatever the case, the movie suffers as a consequence of its various illogical beats and broken storytelling.
As such, this is far from being a Western great, which is a shame considering the spectacular cinematography, excellent soundtrack, and well-shot action scenes which are undoubtedly this movie’s strengths. With better writing and fewer cracks within the narrative, The Last Son could have been a top-tier movie, but unfortunately, this is less than the sum of its many great parts.
Read More: The Last Son Ending Explained
Verdict - 6/10