The first five or ten minutes of The Last Request do not inspire much confidence for the remaining 80. A sense of geography is hard to pin down, despite the story taking place entirely in one house, as there are random shots of the surrounding hills and neighborhood inserted for no discernible reason. In addition, there is a multi-second delay between when the audio of the characters is heard and their lips moving. It is pretty sloppy and keeps audiences at a distance for quite some time, as even once these issues dissipate, it takes a while for them to become fully immersed in the viewing experience.
Written by stars Ryan Vania and Dallas Ryan, who also directs, the drama opens with John (Dallas Ryan) waking up in a bathtub in a strange house. He has no memory of how he got there, nor does he know why he is there. After a bit of exploring and getting to know the cute puppy Sedona, John discovers his brother, Michael (Ryan Vania), and a note.
Said note explains that the mysterious abductor has kidnapped Michael’s daughter, and if the instructions in this, and the subsequent notes, are not followed to a T, the daughter will be killed. If the brothers step outside of the house, she will be killed. Now, the siblings are in the game of their life, as they try to survive potential bombs and snakes, all while figuring out who took them and why.
“…they try to survive potential bombs and snakes, all while figuring out who took them and why.”
Right around the time John and Michael go into the kitchen and encounter their first real peril, the aforementioned problems begin to fade. And before The Last Request hits the hour mark, despite the somewhat repetitive dialogue, those watching will find themselves wrapped up in the drama, as the brothers’ traumatic childhood and guilt come into focus. In part, this is because instead of being some Saw ripoff, the filmmakers are much more interested in how intense and dangerous situations make people examine themselves and their lives. As such, John and Michael are very well-developed and engaging people who, even at the end, retain empathy and sympathy from the audience.
The other crucial aspect to the film’s success is the acting. Vania and Ryan tap a deep well of emotional truth while portraying these characters. They interact believably and understand that good people have some bad in them and vice versa. This means that their bond and the love of their family are never in question, allowing the mystery and dramatic reveals to take center stage.
The titular request of The Last Request cannot be specifically mentioned, as it is a spoiler. But it showcases brotherly love and acceptance of both one’s problems and that of their family. The screenplay has been careful in laying this theme, and its full impact is felt as intended by the time the credits roll.
The Last Request starts off very amateurish and grating. But, thanks to its strong themes and great lead performances, it ultimately works. The ending especially brings it all home, so while the film begins on a sour note, it ends on a high.
"…[taps] a deep well of emotional truth..."