Last Man in Jericho


The Film With a Pedigree

One happening across Last Man Standing on a movie channel would believe that it was just a period Bruce Willis venue for violence and blood. My youngest son pointed out the relationship of the Texas gang feud with a famous fiction writer of the 30’s– Dashiell Hammett. If one has any knowledge of crime fiction then his name should ring bells regarding such names as Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles. Spade ties to the Maltese Falcon and the Charles’s, the book and t.v. series The Thin Man. But, Last Man Standing was drawn from a work renown on its own- Red Dawn. Which according to some Red Dawn may have inspired Kirosawa’s Yojimbo and possibly Sergio Leone’s A Fist Full of Dollars.

One would believe a movie with that much history would be one to remember. Sadly, the talent of Willis, Bruce Dern, and Christopher Walken working in a set seemingly carved out of the wasteland of the Texas border never mattered to the public. One might chalk up the 20 plus .45 caliber magazines Willis uses to kill most of the remaining gangsters as an excessive violently turn off. And, like most over done gangster movies, Last Man Standing did little to justify the excessive gunfire. Other than point out that the director must have known something about the kill rate of a semi automatic weapon and the number of rounds needed to accomplish such. As an astute watcher I counted the number of magazines Willis used in the bloody finality. Of course, on a second viewing of that sequence, which was preceded by said gangster, John Smith, I counted as he loaded the magazines in preparation for the shoot out.

Would I suggest you fork out the $20 you must fork out to view the movie in a theater with your favorite gangster movie sidekick? Not even. I do not suggest one watch the movie for the violence involved. But, as a study in history, there might be something worth exploring. The crime fiction writers of the Post Depression era are very lightly regarded these days. But, if one examines the characters in this one movie, they might find the shallowness of the characters an escape from the harshness of life in that period of our history. And, the hopelessness of anyone who must face life penetrated by gangsters of that era.

Bruce Willis has a few memorable roles. One might be as the Jackal. John Smith could be added as one role which fit his on screen persona in the same way, Clint Eastwood appeared as “the man with no name” in Sergio Leone’s triology.

Somewhere out there is a Hall of Fame for really bad men with a need for being heroic. In Last Man Standing, Willis punched his ticket for a bust in that hall.