FILM REVIEW; LAST NIGHT

Andy Boyo’s Last Night finds itself in an interesting position in my mind. It is either one of the cleverest self-aware films I’ve seen or, in the worst case scenario, it comes off extremely asinine but sheer enjoyable nonsense. I don’t know that I trust this director so I lean towards the latter but surely the final act of this film is winking at audiences, it just has to be. Time will tell just how savvy Boyo is but aside the quasi-self-aware moments (lets go with that for now) his script isn’t the tightest and his direction is clumsy and wanting for detail but the fact that I still can’t fully pin down this film bugs me.

Last Night opens with amusing irreverence as our central character, Bright (Prince David Osei) dishes out a semantics lecture on the hallowed “F” word to university freshers. Quite the education. It’s a bit I’ve seen before (DeNiro in Besson’s The Family) but Boyo commits to this bit and Osei carries it with the gusto of a stand-up. Bright is speaking to uni students so obviously he has some traction in the public sphere. He hosts a popular night time radio show called “Truth and Consequences” on the fictional Snypa D FM and we join him as he discusses the pros and cons of legalising drugs. His public persona demands he lean towards the cons but we watch our man ridiculously do coke lines in his particularly shadowy studio as he drops anti-drug use jingles to oblivious listeners. We are working with quite good satire here but the film quickly loses interest in this tone when a man calls into the show hinting at the duplicitous nature of its host and something even more ominous but Bright quickly brushes it off as a crank call.

We come to learn Bright isn’t the nicest of individuals. Aside from the drug hypocrisy, he’s a borderline junkie and excessive drinker. He tells his pregnant wife he’s on his way from work but makes a beeline to his side chick’s place to shoot some dope and maybe cool out with some sex. The camera watches him with little emotion as he preps his needle and heats up his heroine (I assume), punctuated by sips on some hard booze. He gets his high but that’s as good as it gets for him. As he waits for his mistress to partake in his narcotic communion, things hit the fan when he learns his family has been kidnapped by a nefarious individual and the film almost wants to scream “Karma bruh” but for Bright’s innocent family. The unknown kidnapper requests a ransom and puts Bright on the clock as his family distresses in the backdrop and the stakes rise.

The film plays with different tones and the transitions appear clear but lacking finesse. It has the part satire thing going on which I quite liked but when the more ominous elements of the story come into play it becomes a disjointed dimly lit noirish thriller as Bright traverses late night Accra on his own to save his family. A sense of urgency is so conspicuously missing in this section of the film and I half-expected Bright to just give up his family in an uber nihilistic twist but that never comes as he halfheartedly tries to gather himself and make sense of the situation. Maybe I wasn’t hearing well and he had 6 months to come up with the money instead of the one night. Osei does well to convey a snarky repulsive persona early on, but when his family hangs in the balance he struggles to draw some sympathy from the audience and the film still wants to yell out “Karma bruh”.

Last Night as a thriller is sloppy, uneven and unrealized and as our director approaches something resembling and endgame, the film enters surreally unhinged territory. The script’s focus on the one character perceptibly hints at some dissection its subject’s psyche and from the get, there is the chance some plot points are largely symbolic. If you’ve seen the trailer you know Bright ends up trapped in a casket as potentially one of the most entertaining film sequences this year commences. As this more seamless tonal shift ensues and the film goes off on a different tangent I wondered; am I laughing AT what is happening on-screen or WITH the film as it nears a denouement? How self-aware is Boyo here? Questions I hope to ask him one day. Either way, this casket sequence is worth the price of admission alone.

I hesitate to give credit to Boyo for how the film ends (save for the cheap cop out) but snippets of some of his other work paint him as a potentially savvy director. He wields the camera well here and keeps things active drawing us in but his handling of the film as a thriller left a lot to be desired. A lot of noise was made of having Prince David Osei as the films singular physical presence (I still call BS on that) but his performance falls flat at key moments. Last Night is flawed but it does leave you with intriguing moments to linger on, some which are golden. If it doesn’t come off as clever to you, you can still fall back on how undeniably enjoyable it gets.

By Delali Adogla-Bessa

Feel free to hit me up with you thoughts in the comments section or via email here: delalibessa@yahoo.com

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