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Last Resort

Starring Dina Korzun
Written and Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

IN SHORT: for the arthouse. [Not Rated. 77 minutes]

Last Resort is the first film in this year's Shooting Gallery Film Series of independent films. We've noticed, since last year, that our taste seems to run categorically opposite to that of the audience the Shooting Gallery serves. Their big hit of 2000, Croupier, bored us silly with sloppy filmmaking and a story we thought we'd seen a zillion times before. It was so painful to us, that we declared mercy and didn't do a review, thinking it would be gone in a week. So much for our psychic abilities. We won't make that mistake again, even if it doesn't make us look like total culturally ignorant morons.

We didn't get that emotional, in either direction about Last Resort, which struck us as a pretty average indie film. That means it's of the type where, if you are partial to such things, you can go out afterwards and analyze the intricacies of each actor's performance and look for those little things that only film students tend to notice. We, on the other hand, have always expected good performances out of actors because that is their job. We look to the story moreso than those little intricacies enhanced by a couple of espressos or lattes, and are pleased to report that there is enough story stuff in Last Resort to keep this film floating around the art house circuit for a while.

Like her mother, and her mother's mother, and her mother's mother before them all Tanya (Dina Korzun) is a fool for love. Two husbands, two divorces and one young son later, she has, once again, followed her heart (if not her head) and packed up and moved her small family from her native Russia to the UK, where fiancee named Michael awaits. So she thinks. With son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) in tow and a measly eighty five dollars in her purse, the only people waiting to meet Tanya at UK Customs are the customs agents themselves. With no one to vouch for her and dreading deportation, Tanya asks for political asylum, not realizing that a trip to Hell would be more comfortable.

But Last Resort avoids the trap of making its story into the standard bureaucratic hell that we guessed was coming. Exiled to the remnants of Stonehaven-by-the-Sea, a nearly deserted holiday resort, Tanya faces the task of setting up some sort of life while the political paper works its way through the system. That can take twelve to sixteen months and Tanya has no skills or friends or money or job talents. What cash she has is fed to the pay phone on the corner as she tries to reach her "fiancé". Again and again, his phone is answered by a machine.

What's a mother to do? Artiom is hanging with local kid thugs. Tanya's only asset, her looks, gets her noticed by a local Internet pornographer named Les (Lindsey Honey). Nothing XXX mind you. Just a gig that is equivalent to video phone sex. The porn guy isn't the only game in town. There's also Alfie (Paddy Considine), who runs what's left of the games at the Dreamland amusement park. He's one of the few genuine nice guys in the story, and thus probably doesn't stand a chance here as he befriends Artiom and helps Tanya set up an apartment and get some kind of life in order.

That's all you need to know. Telling anything more would spill all that lovely stuff that art house enthusiasts like to discuss afterwards. The performances are perfectly believable in Last Resort – the porn meister is, apparently, the real deal, running a similar real life sex biz in the UK. The rest of the story is truly very small. It's a creation that details the day to day emotional evolution of a young woman and, if you're sharp enough to pick out the details in Korzun's performance that have a couple of critic friends of ours raving, you're more in tune with the pack than we are.

Last Resort was just OK by us. Nothing lost by our time spent. Nothing that mustered up the kind of enthusiasm that would have us reco'íng the film to those of you who wouldn't normally venture anywhere near this kind of film.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Last Resort, he would have paid...


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