The seemingly unstoppable rehabilitation of Mel Gibson continues with this Hollywood-set comedy-crime thriller in which Gibson is practically trolling us by playing Alastair Pinch, a close-to-the-bone version of himself a few years back. Pinch is an alcoholic actor accused of violence against women, although in the film his character is arrested for killing his wife, whereas in real life Gibson pleaded no contest to a battery charge. And yet, we’re supposed to think he’s charming and adorable because he can quote chunks of Hamlet (which Gibson played once, back in 1990) and plays sweetly with his kindergarten-aged daughter (Sophie Fatu). At least this semi-satirical fiction, adapted by Howard Michael Gould from his own novel and efficiently directed by Brit Tim Kirkby, recognizes that forgiveness is always around the corner for film stars no matter how flawed so long as they have good PR and box- office draw.
Gibson is actually only a supporting character in Last Looks; the real protagonist is an ex-cop private eye named Charlie Waldo (Charlie Hunnam) who is hired to find out who killed Pinch’s wife. Still licking his wounds after he ended up getting an innocent man sent to jail where he died, Waldo lives a life of monastic simplicity now and only possesses a hundred objects, including a mobile home, a pet chicken named Chicken and a bicycle. This creates some mild mirth when he has to get round famously car-centric Los Angeles on the bike – but it’s the peripheral characters who generate the laughs, especially the always welcome Rupert Friend as a cynical studio executive, barking out sweary, aggressive negotiations on the phone with an interlocutor who turns out to be his child. Morena Baccarin is on hand as an old flame and Lucy Fry gets to be a blond schoolteacher who is not as sweet and innocent as her floral tea gowns would suggest.
Altogether it would be pretty bouncy and fun if it didn’t have the wretched Gibson in it. Isn’t the industry awash with aging stars that could fill the role just as well?