Historically, graphic novel adaptations have tended to dilute extreme violence through the comic book lens – consider how gruesome and unwatchable Sin City or 300 would have been without a cartoonish filter to give the viewer some distance. A few, most notably Oldboy and A History Of Violence, have successfully translated adult illustration to gritty drama and, presumably with Joker as its touchstone, Netflix have brought a similarly earthy edge to the ultra-violence of Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s 2009 book The Last Days Of American Crime.
Where Joker relied on a loose, drifting narrative, TLDOAC’s conceit is brilliantly focused. In a matter of days, the US government is set to switch on the IPA programme, a chip implanted into every citizen which debilitates them as soon as they think about doing something illegal, a kind of perp 5G if you like. Policing will become a doddle – you wouldn’t even be able to drive to Durham with this deafening screech in your head.
As a countdown plays out from every screen, the streets are in chaos at the idea of a totalitarian mind control police state, but career criminal Grahame Bricke (Edgar Ramírez) is approached by the black sheep of the local crime family Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt) who has a plan to pull off the last crime in American history. Abetted by hacker Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster), they plot to delay one particular transmitter tower going online, giving them half an hour to steal $1billion and escape to Canada just as the cops are putting their guns away for good.
With director Olivier Megaton chucking every revenge flick lesson he’s learned from directing two Taken sequels at the screen, it emerges as a fast-paced, if a little over-stretched, small screen composite of John Wick, The Purge and any trigger-happy heist movie you care to mention, ideally with Quentin Tarantino distantly attached. He doesn’t entirely escape the source material: plenty of the supporting cast are somewhat lumbered with paper-thin good/evil characters (mostly evil) and the cartoonish elements jar with the general air of unflinching brutality – the explosion survivor back-from-the-dead to exact gasoline revenge on our antihero, for example, is a classic comic book trope landing with a thump in an otherwise realistic action film. But Megaton does use his 150-minute running time to give his central trio flesh and depth, not least Brewster’s secretly string-pulling femme fatale.
In busying himself with fleshing out their tangled emotional web and setting up fairly pointless minor characters (there’s a traumatised police officer whose story has more of a bellyflop than an arc), Megaton omits clearly defined details of the heist plan itself, leaving the final reel as a messy, blood-soaked denouement, all gut shots and fluttering dollar bills, lacking much foreshadowed tension. It is, perhaps, a folly of the form, but as a twist-laden, gory joyride, TLDOAC screeches off the page.
- Director: Olivier Megaton
- Starring: Michael Pitt, Sharlto Copley, Edgar Ramírez
- Release date: June 5 (Netflix)