One of the reasons I generally like movies of yesteryear more so than modern movies is the presence and charisma that the stars of those films had. One movie-star that certainly occupies the screen with the authoritative presence that was so common in the previous decades is Gerard Butler. His films can be hit or miss, but there is no question that Butler packs a punch. Perhaps, as my mother’s side is Scottish, I might have localised/patriotical support for Butler. However, I can’t help lap up his scrappy blockbusters. We affectionately nickname him Gerard Burger on the Projector Room podcast due to his practice of appearing in unapologetically rubbish flicks that are just tasty and Last Seen Alive could hit the right spot.
The latest of which is Butler doing The Vanishing. There is little to separate Last Seen Alive from The Vanishing or the classier Kurt Russell thriller Breakdown. Both of these movies do what Last Seen Alive does, but much better. That not to say Last Seen Alive is meritless, it’s full of calories and covered in cheese, bacon, onions with a drizzling of barbeque sauce. The one thing that The Vanishing and Breakdown doesn’t have is Gerard Butler. True, Kurt Russell is a top badass, but he was on his best behaviour in Breakdown. When Butler gets in a scrap here you know he’s going to do damage with those haymakers. Butler is a believable force stomping though the backwoods connecting the dots and breaking the noses.
The story could not be more simple. Stopping at a petrol filling station whilst travelling to her home town, Butler’s wife, Lisa, disappears. Butler needs to find her, their marriage has had better days and he is confident he can fix it. The police are on the case, however feeling they aren’t doing enough, Butler dives head first into some of the dodgier areas of Lisa’s home town as takes matter into his own hands. On hand to frustrate Butler are Lisa’s parents.
A moment from the trailer shows a police officer requesting Butler open his “trunk” whilst a man appears to be bundled, bound and gagged, inside of it. A perfectly tense moment that is laughably resolved. It is at this moment that the film starts to lose its way with a sequence soon after involving Butler attempting to blag his way past one of the villain’s men. The script simply is not smart enough to convince and probably could have enjoyed more success had butler’s knuckles done the talking.
Heading into a little spoiler territory in this the one paragraph, the biggest problem outside of the re-treaded territory is the climax. There are some tactics used behind the scenes to ramp up tension for a dynamic climax, however, this really boils down to Butler creeping around the big baddies lair with a gun. The music and tight shots create the illusion of something a lot more exciting than it actually is. Very little happens. Save for one, somewhat unconvincing explosion.
There is an overwhelming feeling of disappointment when the reason for the abduction is revealed, especially compared to Breakdown and The Vanishing. The final moments leave us with a implausible conversation between the detective and Butler as he turns a blind eye to Butler’s lawbreaking.
Last Seen Alive is not to be totally avoided, it does entertain, however, this has been done a lot better previously and your time might be better spent revisiting those that came before. Unless you need a bit of Butler to satisfy your cravings.