The Last Match
Fabrizio De Angelis
The illusion of film extends beyond just creating images to fool an audience, there is often a narrative sleight of hand as well. While almost no plot stands up to intense scrutiny, a competent film will be able to slide a questionable plot point or character action right past an audience on the first viewing. Occasionally a film comes along with something so ill-conceived and silly that no amount of hand waving or forceful barreling ahead with the story will fix it. Some films come with the caveat of: ‘If you just ignore…[blank] you can enjoy it.', but when your film’s central premise is a commando raid by a football team in full uniform, I’m sorry, there’s nothing you can do to convince me it’s anything but utterly ridiculous.
Susan Gaylor (Melissa Palmisano) is a young woman visiting an unnamed island in the Caribbean with her imbecilic boyfriend. She is falsely accused of drug smuggling via novelty banana and thrown in prison, (and when Henry Silva is your warden, you know you’re in trouble). Her star quarterback dad, Cliff (Oliver Tobias), does everything he can to get her out of jail, but runs up against anti-American sentiment and lots of corruption. His football team, lead by the Coach (Ernest Borgnine), fly down to the island to help. In an amazing turn of luck, everyone on his team just happen to be war veterans and they are more than happy to kill a million zillion people to get one girl out of prison.
The highlight of the film (as the kick-ass poster will attest) is the football team’s raid on the prison, complete with full uniforms, the coach calling plays from a helicopter, and punted grenades. The action is chaotic and exciting. At no point is the team ever in any particular danger, which undermines any tension. Sadly, the actual raid occupies maybe fifteen minutes of running time. Before then, we have to sit through Cliff getting the run around by a sleazy attorney (Martin Balsam) and an ineffectual US ambassador (Charles Napier). Only Silva’s thoroughly sleazy warden and Borgnine’s crusty coach occasionally bring a little life to the screen, at least until the explosions start.
More interestingly, we have what is effectively a movie about rich Americans killing dozens of poor brown people (who harbor a very unfocused anti-American stance but seem happy to have tourists around) doing millions of dollars worth of damage in the process of rescuing one person, all the while in American football uniforms. I’d like to think this was all a less than subtle dig at Americans abroad, but I also think that would ascribe way too much thought to a movie that would have you believe someone can blow up a helicopter by punting a grenade filled football into it.
Just when you think the movie is over, you’re treated to a lengthy championship game between two nondescript teams that ends on what I think is cinema’s only football game ever won by an easily made field goal.
If you’re willing to put up with an hour of tediousness, ‘The Last Match’ offers up some hilarious moments, but you’re probably better off just staring at the film’s poster.