While some thrillers find their villain in the unhinged hitman character, The Last Mark asks what would happen if they were actually the hero. The Last Mark plays out largely in a safe-house, focusing on the decisions made by an aging hitman who wants to do one good thing in his life — even as the window to save himself closes around him. The novel idea is one of the thriller’s strengths, with good performances and a solidly entertaining script contributing to the film as well. While the low-key story is ultimately familiar, the sense of humor and skilled direction keep The Last Mark moving along at a decent click and make it ultimately worth a watch.
The Last Mark largely follows Keele (Shawn Doyle), a hitman who has developed something of a conscience in his later years. Having grown too old for the business — and increasingly unnerved by his psychotic partner Palmer (Bryce Hodgson) — the breaking point comes with their most recent assignment. Having successfully killed a new mark, the pair are shocked to discover a witness in call girl Peyton (Alexia Fast), who initially escapes their grasp.
Although Keele is quick to capture Peyton and initially attempted to deal with her, he ultimately decides to spare her and even whisk her out of the country before Palmer can get ahold of her. Recruiting his friend Eli (Jonas Chernick) to procure them fake passports, Keele and Peyton end up having a surprising amount of time to insult, attack, and get to know one another. Meanwhile, as the tock clicks for their potential escape, Palmer realizes what’s happened and moves to eliminate any witnesses to their crime — including Keele.
The first act serves primarily as set-up, while the majority of The Last Mark takes place at Keele’s safe-house, where he keeps a defiant Peyton hostage until they can try to make their escape. Director Reem Morsi handles the film’s inherent intensity with a surprisingly effective muted style, which benefits the more character-driven moments of the story. There’s a deliberate slowness to the build-up of every confrontation or reveal in the film, especially when Palmer is engaged. Morsi also handles the film well, utilizing sudden bursts of menace or violence to good effect. The cast is uniformly solid, if fairly straightforward in their performances. The characters are slightly underserved in terms of depth, but the cast is clearly having fun finding the comic and tense beats of their arcs alike.
Revelations about Keele and Peyton’s potential connection don’t give way to a greater understanding of the characters, but they do allow Doyle and Fast a greater range of emotions to play with in their time together. While Palmer may be a fairly one-note, scarily-detached killer character, Hodgson imbues him with an infectious amount of glee that makes him stand out. There’s a frantic energy to every performance that breathes life into the characters, which each performer seems keenly attuned to. The film is at its most interesting visually and narratively when it focuses on Keele’s attempts to remain calm despite frequent near-breakdowns, juxtaposed against Peyton’s attempts to escape.
There are interesting concepts teased in the story, but The Last Mark largely remains focused on the interplay between the performers. At the end of the day, the characters are somewhat basic, but not unappealing. The film’s biggest surprise might be its sense of humor. There’s a decent sense of timing at play, with the performances (especially Hodgson) mining some surprising laughs out of their characters’ predicaments. While it may not be revolutionary, Morsi’s direction and the cast’s solid performances elevate a meandering script and infuse the morality play with enough character to make it engaging.
The Last Mark, directed by Reem Morsi and starring Alexia Fast, Shawn Doyle, and Bryce Hodgson, will be available On Demand Mar. 1.
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