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By Merle Bertrand | September 24, 2001

Everyone knows that auto mechanics are crooks, at least in the metaphorical sense. For Frank White (Kurt Johnson), owner of A+ Auto Repair, the epithet of “thief” is more than just an empty label. Or at least it was. Two years earlier, you see, Frank, his girlfriend at the time Gail (Karyn Casl), the greasy thug Bobby (Kevin Reed), and their squeaky sidekick Ben (John Lamb) formed a fairly effective crime ring. But when a Kansas City kidnapping caper turned sour, thanks to Bobby murdering their victim, the mayor’s son, Frank abandoned the gang…but not before absconding with $1 million or so in ransom money.
Overcome with remorse and guilt, Frank anonymously dropped the cash off a bit at a time at every church he passed on the way to a new life in LA. There he assumed a new identity, met his wife-to-be, Faye (Katie Brown), inherited the garage after his father-in-law’s death…and life was good.
Until, that is, the unwelcome publicity Frank received from busting up a convenience store heist tipped off his old gang mates as to his whereabouts. Soon, Bobby and company are in LA and, after kidnapping Faye, force a proposition on the retired criminal: either Frank helps them plan one last heist as repayment for their “lost” cash or Bobby will show Frank and Faye both the hard way that crime really doesn’t pay.
Director Mark Steensland has turned in a better than expected noir thriller in “The Last Way Out.” To be sure, there’s very little subtlety or gray areas in the film. With the exception of Frank and maybe Gail, the good guys are very very good while the bad guys, particularly Bobby, are almost comically bad. Then again, that’s sort of just a film noir trait in general.
What isn’t film noir is the digital video format. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and I’ll keep on saying it: It doesn’t matter if you drain the color away to make the final product black and white, which this film is. The inherent crispness of video — even digital video — simply doesn’t lend itself to the requisite murkiness of a gritty crime drama.
Even so, “The Last Way Out” weaves an intriguing yarn. And even though the way Frank attempts to outfox his old mates-turned nemesis’s is a little too pat and onion skin-thin, it’s enough to show that what Bobby claims is the only way out, may not be “The Last Way Out” after all.

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