Last Words (2020) short film review

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A missing cop sparks a citywide manhunt for a serial killer who may, or may not, be responsible for the disappearance. We take a look at first-time director Ace Patel’s Last Words.

Still 2 300x127 Last Words (2020) short film review

Thrown straight into a police press conference audio file that plays over images of police chases and neon-lit cityscapes, Last Words tells us straight away what the film is all about and where it will be leading us. A police officer named Johnson, who has been working on a high profile homicide case and was close to solving it, has not shown up to work for a couple of days. After checking his home, and after finding his car abandoned on the sidewalk, the police have no option but to treat it as a missing person’s case.

The final question of the press conference is very telling, “some sources are saying the officer was going crazy. Is this true?”. This feeds into the ambiguity of the plot which helps keep the audience on their toes. Is Officer Johnson a victim of a crime or has he just broken down and ran away due to the stress of the job?

Our answer comes sooner than we think, as we cut to a warehouse where an edgy, nervy and suicidal guy drops a police badge and begins to talk to himself while thunder and lightning rage over his head. Could this be Officer Johnson? Our character begins to monologue and gradually we learn who each of the characters is and where they feature in the plot of this crime film’s 8 minutes run time.

Last Words is the first film from an obviously naturally talented director in Ace Patel. The short is like an exercise in style; he sets up his characters and then allows their dialogue (from writer Anthony Hall) to reveal all. The main bulk of the short is set in a warehouse and features a roaming camera that hides from its actors as if it’s sneaking around and eavesdropping on a potentially deadly situation. The short feels like it is going to be great but the script doesn’t have much curiosity about it, as our antagonist prefers to give everything away as opposed to keeping it all under wraps.

Last Words 199x300 Last Words (2020) short film reviewPatel and Hall trust the idea they have though, and they allow the idea to drive the plot. The idea being that the antagonist could be either the villain or the cop. Unfortunately, even though the idea is quite strong, the answer is very formulaic and it becomes clear to us far too soon. This leaves the film lacking the uncertainty that made the first few minutes so interesting, as our protagonist is outed as a deranged, evil individual who, despite his initial nervous appearance, now sadistically toys with his prey.

As for the film as a whole, I did like what I saw, which was made with next to no money. It’s an impressive piece of film-making but the part that needed the work doesn’t cost money. Having created the characters and fashioned an interesting outline, Patel and his writer Hall don’t do much with them other than let them talk. It’s a minor quibble with what is an entertaining eight minutes that looks great and, for a first time director, is an extremely successful and confident piece of work.

3.5 / 5 stars     

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