Beautifully shot but far from beautiful in subject matter, Last Ride is a hybrid of genres – a road movie, a film about the bond between a father and son, and a whodunit (actually, a what-did-he-do) – sustained throughout by a nuanced performance from Hugo Weaving. Weaving plays Kev, a tattoo-strewn and physically ravaged career criminal who is travelling through some very remote and photogenic parts of the country with his ten-year-old son Chook (Tom Russell) in tow.
The pair appear to be on an adventure, and only slowly do we come to understand that Ken is on the run. The crime itself is revealed very late in the film, and as the storyline unfolds – the boys drop in on Ken’s old flame Maryanne (Anita Hegh) who is glad to see them and equally glad to see the back of them, they crash at a pioneering museum, and Ken’s poor judgment and temper get them in an escalating series of scrapes – the filmmakers drop subtle hints as to its nature and motivation. Weaving disappears into one of his finest performances as Ken, a man who struggles to parent a son he quite obviously loves despite being a man of little compassion and being himself the product of somewhat dubious parenting. Some of the scenes of Ken’s parenting will be hard for some to take, and as their subject, Tom Russell does a fine job. Young Chook has seen enough crime in his life, and this last journey with his father may make him as a man or a future criminal – looking for the clues is interesting viewing.
This is the feature film debut for Glendyn Ivin who took the 2003 Palme D’Or at Cannes for the short Crackerbag. Working from Mac Gudgeon’s sparse script from a novel by Denise Young, the filmmakers weave very subtle moments in among scenes of brutality and intensity, and the film would further pay off on repeat viewings, if only its unrelenting grimness would make repeat viewings an attractive proposition. What works in the film’s favour is the canvas on which this tale unfolds, in the ochres and greens of the South Australian outback. It looks thirtsy in those bleak landscapes, but you could drink in the warm colours from Greig Fraser’s camerawork.
The sins-of-the-father storyline may make hard viewing for some, but this is solid Aussie filmmaking elevated by its capable cast.