Last Call review – bad news, good booze

This soft-headed comedy-drama has the profundity and about the same wit level of one of those joke signs you see above bars, and often feels like it was scripted on a hangover after a two-day bender. Jeremy Piven plays Mick, prodigal real estate-developer son who returns to his old stomping ground of Darby Heights (based on Philadelphia’s Upper Darby) for his mother’s funeral. His feckless buddies, including jail-hopping brother Dougal (Zach McGowan), are still living their old boozy lives. What Mick thinks will revitalise the neighbourhood – and fend off the real-estate sharks circling, among other things, his dad’s pub – is a new casino.

The obvious contradiction here – that Mick’s idea is ridiculous, and he is in fact part of what is threatening Darby Heights – is never meaningfully broached, as Last Call lets the hot topic of gentrification go begging. Director Paolo Pilladi and writer Greg Lingo (who is from Upper Darby) are so fired up making the film an ode to bar-room high jinks and blue-collar camaraderie that characterisation suffers. The boys call Mick out for forgetting his roots – but dragging him off for the umpteenth binge, they are mystifyingly unquestioning of his canvassing for the casino. Last Call visibly crunches gears when it does remember to tackle Mick’s divided loyalties, like when he (implausibly) asks one of his real-estate associates outside when he gets into a spat with a bar pal.

The badinage is sporadically funny – even if it drifts too much towards the puerile, as with a running gag about Mick’s priapism problem. But any hope Last Call might skate by on working-class charm is hobbled by Pilladi’s timid direction: flat-footed and full of unimaginative choices. When Mick and his dad are having a heart-to-heart, Irish folk music lilts on the soundtrack; for the Greek family of Mick’s crush, Ali (Taryn Manning), it’s jaunty rebetiko. It all lets down an impressive cast that includes Bruce Dern, Raging Bull’s Cathy Moriarty and Scream’s Jamie Kennedy. One of the boys in Entourage, Piven breezes through likably enough – possibly they hoped that was a pass for the film’s flakiness.

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