Parts “Kelly’s Heroes” and parts “Three Kings”, the British World War II movie “The Last Drop” sees a group of men (a “guys on a mission” movie, as Tarantino calls them) dropped behind enemy lines during the historically botched Operation Market Garden. Their mission: steal Dutch national treasures before the Nazis send them all to Berlin so the Fuhrer can get naked and roll around in them. Of course this isn’t made clear until almost 70 minutes into the film, and by then, alas, the film has lost so much steam because of its narrative choices that you won’t really care anyway.
The main problem with “The Last Drop” is that, even at 110 minutes of running time, it nevertheless spreads itself too thin among one too many groups of characters. The first and main storyline belongs to the British, who are air-dropped by Canadian pilot Oates (Billy Zane), only to have the unit, along with the commanding officer, get decimated by German gunfire. Left behind to complete the mission are gimpy Sergeant McMillian (Sean Pertwee), Oates, a cowardly medic, a morphine-addicted bomb expert, and Corporal Powell (Neil Newbon), who is more than he says he is. Unfortunately for our soldiers, they have no idea what their mission is, except to rendezvous with a pair of Dutch sisters/resistance fighters. Powell knows, of course, but he’s not talking. Yet.
Meanwhile, German deserters Lieutenant Voller (Alexander Skarsgard), the bellicose Beck (Karel Roden), and a third man are planning a heist of their own involving those very same Dutch treasures. Beck just wants the loot to retire on, but Voller seems to have a personal grudge against Major Kessler (Laurence Fox), the German SS officer tasked with protecting and shipping the goods back to Berlin . And finally, there are the Americans, led by Colonel J.T. Colt (Michael Madsen). As expected, Colt and the Americans are walking cliché, with Colt coming across as a poor facsimile of Patton. Madsen doesn’t get a whole lot to do, just enough to justify a picture on the marquee.
“The Last Drop” is clearly endeavoring to be as close to the Clint Eastwood 1970 World War II heist film “Kelly’s Heroes” as much as possible. It doesn’t always succeed, if only because, as mentioned, the script by director Colin Teague and co-writer Gary Young is too fractured. The film seems to have the most fun when it’s following the wacky adventures of Beck and Voller, who spends much of the film negotiating war-ravaged Holland as the Americans push in from one side and the Germans the other. Most of the film’s comedy also comes from here, as Karel Roden and Alexander Skarsgard make for a rather hilarious “Odd Couple” tandem. In fact, if these guys weren’t part of a genocidal war machine steamrolling through Europe , you’d think they were swell fellas.
While director Colin Teague seems to handle the film’s comedic elements well enough, the movie’s action scenes are erratic at best, impossible to follow at worst. Poor editing is a major problem, and the action rarely has any coherent flow. At one point someone will be mowing down Germans with an M60 with two Germans racing at him from behind, and a second later he’s face-down on the ground trying to avoid friendly fire and the two Germans are nowhere to be seen. One moment a character is hiding in a tower, the next he’s in the water, and then later he’s hiding in the back of a plane, having miraculously avoided detection all this time, including by the pilot of the plane.
“The Last Drop’s” best war action is in the beginning, after the British squad crashes and finds themselves in the crossfire of a German machinegun nest. The sequence only works because of the inherent chaos of the situation, and nothing else. The movie caps off with a final climactic battle where the various parties converge to shoot at each other, but as mentioned, the action has no fluidity and there are enough continuity errors to make one blush with embarrassment. Other than that, “The Last Drop” is a serviceable enough lightweight war movie, with Teague opting for the always popular style of shooting the action in varied film speed.
“The Last Drop” seems to noticeably run out of steam at around the 70 minute mark, at about the same time the British reach the farm house hiding the Dutch loot. At this point you get the feeling that the filmmakers didn’t really know how to proceed, so about 30 minutes are wasted on pointless conversation and non-action. The fault, of course, lies in the script, which fails to understand that the whole point of “guys on a mission” movies is to watch the guys getting to their mission, not to watch them get there in a hurry, then sit around talking until the inevitable final battle. See “Saving Private Ryan” and, once again, “Kelly’s Heroes” for examples.
On the plus side, Sean Pertwee (“Dog Soldiers”) as usual is reliably good as the tough but raggy Sergeant, while Billy Zane is amusingly awful as the faux Canadian pilot. As mentioned, Michael Madsen (“Kill Bill”) shows up just long enough to get his name on the marquee, but that doesn’t stop the character from being one of the film’s highlights. Meanwhile Neil Newbon, as the cold and calculating Powell, ends up a non-entity much too soon. Too bad, because the character really stood out the most during the early parts of the movie. Curiously, “The Last Drop” seems to be hitting on all cylinders whenever we’re treated to the comic stylings of Beck and Voller. Who knew Nazis could be so funny?
Colin Teague (director) / Colin Teague, Gary Young (screenplay)
CAST: Billy Zane …. Oates
Karel Roden …. Beck
Michael Madsen …. Col J.T. Colt
Alexander Skarsgard …. Lt. Voller
Tommy Flanagan …. Cpl Baker
Sean Pertwee …. Sgt McMillan
Laurence Fox …. Major Kessler
Neil Newbon …. Cpl Powell
Coral Beed …. Saskia