Last Exit (2003) Movie Review

David Noel Bourke’s “Last Exit”, about an Englishman in Denmark who gets into trouble with some criminal types, is problematic in the same way most low-budget films are problematic — there is a distinctive lack of an interesting single storyline. Or in other words, there isn’t a story that is not only constant, but also captivating enough to keep the audience interested from beginning to end. In the case of “Last Exit”, one is hard pressed to fine a central story at all. It’s not until the third act that the film manages to be more than a random sequence of events that feels more like padding than anything germane.

Morten Vogelius stars as Nigel, an Englishman who has fled to Denmark to escape some unsavory types to whom he owes large sums of money. A selfish and rather unredeemable bloke, Nigel has not only left a wife and son behind, but also has quickly gotten re-married to Maria (Jette Philipsen). Lest you believe Nigel is capable of redemption, you would be wrong. No sooner does he meet Tanya (Gry Bay), the Jane-of-all-trades under the employ of a Godfather-wannabe known as the President (Peter Ottesen), does Nigel hop into bed with her. But Tanya has her own reasons for sleeping with Nigel, and soon…

Of course the phrase “and soon” doesn’t come quickly enough. For much of its first hour, I’m afraid “Last Exit” meanders too much for its own good. It’s only in the third act, after a stray piece of broken bottle accidentally finds its way into someone’s neck, that the movie really takes off and becomes quite entertaining. But until then, Bourke’s script seems content to wander aimlessly, with Nigel going from an unsatisfactory home life with Maria to sexual encounters with Tanya to moments of pontification with Jimmy (Nicholas Sherry), the movie’s Mr. Miyagi of drug dealers.

Luckily for writer/director Bourke, he’s managed to get the service of a talented leading man in Morten Vogelius, who manages to be unapologetically selfish in the face of any given situation. When Tanya latches onto him in an effort to get help, Nigel could care less about her plight. To him, she’s just a great way to past the time he spends away from his wife, who tries in vain to hold onto their marriage. Vogelius makes us believe that his character is not overtly cruel on purpose, but that this is just who he is, and even being down on his luck isn’t going to change his character a bit; if anything, it just allows him to be even more of a jerk to a whole new set of acquaintances.

Less successful is the rest of the cast. Peter Ottesen, in particular, has a bad tendency to scream incoherently, going for shock value. It wouldn’t be so bad except that his screaming throws the film’s audio out of whack. “Last Exit” is a low-budget endeavor, shot on digital video, and I don’t know if whoever edited the audio failed to compensate for Ottesen’s screaming, or if they allowed it to overwhelm the soundtrack on purpose. In any case, all those sudden bursts of screaming hurt my ears. The other major actors, Philipsen as the wronged wife and Bay as the working girl, pales next to Vogelius. It’s not their fault; Vogelius is just too talented, and next to him they come up short.

It’s only in its final 30 minutes or so that “Last Exit” becomes really worth watching. Starting with an “accidental” death that might not have been very accidental, to an attempt to dump various pieces of a recently chopped apart body at different trash cans around the city, and ending with Nigel’s vain attempt to get a piece of everyday equipment to work so he can end it all. It’s all very amusing in its perverse over-the-top display of violence and seemingly randomness. And it works precisely because of those things. It’s a shame the rest of the film wasn’t infused with the same energy and wackiness.

In any case, “Last Exit” sports some good music on the soundtrack and the leading man is quiet good. The editing work is sometimes too erratic, with too many unnecessary cuts within a single scene. This is a problem I’ve noticed with many low-budget filmmakers; sometimes just letting a scene play itself out is the way to go. The film also spends too much time with Nigel and Tanya; these moments come across as mundane and dull. Oh sure, Gry Bay takes off her clothes a lot, but the character just isn’t very interesting and the actress just isn’t very good, I’m afraid.

There is one thing about “Last Exit” that I thought was a missed opportunity. The film is shot (I presume) entirely in Copenhagen, Denmark, but there isn’t much of the city that really stands out. In fact, the film could have been set in just about any city, since most of the exterior scenes are mired in darkness and seems to only take place in pitch-black alleyways and dark street corners. Why not show off more of the scenery? Granted, Danish people probably could care less, but as an American I’d have liked to get a “feel” for a major Denmark city.

David Noel Bourke (director) / David Noel Bourke (screenplay)
CAST: Gry Bay …. Tanya
Morten Vogelius …. Nigel
Jette Philipsen …. Maria
Peter Ottesen …. The President
John Kelleher …. Full Force Finn
Nicholas Sherry …. Jimmy

Buy Last Exit on DVD