Last Ride is a little Australian film that’s been around for over three years now having been released in that country back in 2009 as well as making its way around to several film festivals including Toronto’s. Whatever the reason was for the delay in bringing it to the states is unknown, though it could easily have something to do with the film itself. It tries to tell the simple story of a father and son attempting to make their way across the Australian Outback, but like the characters themselves, the film encounters a few problems along the way.
It starts off with Kev (Hugo Weaving) and his young son, Chook (Tom Russell), already on the road. At first, we’re to think that they are simply traveling somewhere, but the film slowly reveals through dialogue and flashbacks that Kev has done something that is making him flee from the police. As they continue on the run, we begin to realize what kind of person Kev is. We’ve already learned that he is an ex-convict, but through his actions, we see that he has strong tendencies towards violence, not just towards the strangers he meets along the way, but also towards his son. The film explores the journey these two take with no particular destination in mind.
That really is the best synopsis I could come up with for this film and, indeed, it reveals one of its biggest weaknesses: the film doesn’t have much of a story at all. The first half of the film tries to make it a bit compelling simply by having you wonder what it was that Kev did that caused him to go on the run. The answer ends up being rather underwhelming and leads into another problem.
A flashback tells us of what happened, but only very briefly. Up to this point, we have gotten a series of flashbacks that showed us what Kev and Chook did before they went on the run, but again, they are extremely brief, leaving this section of the story very underdeveloped. A deeper exploration into their earlier lives would have gone a long way towards helping us understand the characters and would have helped us form a connection to them, but sadly, we are hardly given anything at all.
Because of this, we must learn all we can about the characters from their time on the road. Herein lies another issue: Chook is left undeveloped as we try to figure out how he feels about this situation that he’s been thrust into. This forces the spotlight on Kev who, as mentioned earlier, shows us his violent tendencies, revealing just what kind of a man he is. However, past learning what Kev’s done and who he is, there isn’t much else to do except feel sorry for Chook as he has to put up with him.
This begs the question of why he does put up with this for so long. He eventually comes to his senses, but it takes a long, long time to get there. It’s true that he is pretty young, but even someone that young should be able to see that there is something very, very wrong. When Chook finally does act, it merely leads to an ending that fizzles out into a completely senseless final shot. It tries to link back to a conversation he had with his father earlier, but doesn’t fit into the context of the final scene at all.
The one interesting thing about the film ends up being getting to see Hugo Weaving in a film that isn’t sci-fi, fantasy, or action, but rather a straight up drama. It’s just a shame that his character is somewhat flat and that the movie is quite forgettable. Russell does a decent job for a young actor, but given that his character goes undeveloped for the whole film, he doesn’t get much of a chance to show us if he has any talent.
Last Ride ends up being a film that just wasn’t thought through very well. There were some clear issues with the story and characters that really needed to be addressed well before the cameras started rolling, but unfortunately director Glendyn Ivin and screenwriter Mac Gudgeon didn’t do so. The film is based on the novel by Denise Young, so it’s quite possible that these things are addressed there and that this was just a sub-par adaptation. Then again, it simply could have been a bad book in the first place.
Last Ride attempts to be a road film about the bond between a father and son, but thanks to glaring story and character problems, all that results is a forgettable and emotionally-uninvolving film.