Last Man Standing

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(1996) ★★★★

ITV4: Wednesday 5 August, 11.40pm

Ruthless gunman Bruce Willis plays between Irish and Italian mobsters in a west Texas bordertown bootleg war. He winds them up and watches them go: “Somewhere along the line, it all got personal.” This stylish reworking of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 samurai classic Yojimbo works well as a Prohibition-era western. Itself based on the 1920s Dashiell Hammett story Red Harvest, Yojimbo was more famously remade by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars. Bathed in burnished earth tones, the handsome photography makes Last Man Standing look almost as good as The Godfather, and it’s likely Sam Mendes took a look at both movies before making Road to Perdition. Willis’ laconic character is called John Smith, a funny variation on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, and he provides intermittent narration in laconic hard-boiled fashion. He’s quick to size up the opportunity Jericho represents – a crooked sheriff in a jerkwater town and two bootlegger outfits who hate one another: “I’d seen the real thing, and these guys were a long way from it.” The actors comfortably occupy their hard-bitten roles and the humour is as dry as Jericho’s dirt streets. No wonder Christopher Walken chokes on the scenery. “I can’t say it went exactly how I’d planned,” says Willis, “but I was right about one thing – they were all better off dead.” Director Walter Hill (who also wrote the pithy script) rejected Elmer Bernstein’s music score, opting instead to use his regular collaborator Ry Cooder. His bluesy guitar’s dry as a bone, too.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 97min

IMDB – Killer Joe

TMDB – Killer Joe

Rotten Tomatoes – Killer Joe