Ex-wives and last men standing mark another floundering Gerard Butler film held together on charm and charm alone. Last Seen Alive is not a warning which draws attention to a missing Will Spann (Butler), far from it, although Butler seems dead on arrival for this one. There he goes, chewing up scenery like no other. A hero in waiting, the buttons of his shirt slowly and assuredly popping off, the lower they go the more chest hair on view, and thus the climax of action-packed spectacle and Jaimie Alexander-starring momentum is drawn. On paper, this Brian Goodman-directed feature sounds stripped back for a Butler action flick. A missing loved one, a race against time to extract her from a gang or hiding hole. But this is Butler, a man whose attempted jaunt home in Plane is scuppered by militias and memories of old.
Last Seen Alive portrays that and a subtle knock at the true crime genre with assured aggrievances. Of course, the problem with all this – or not necessarily the problem but the root trouble of action genre pieces currently – is the routine details which spill from a straight-to-streaming piece. Such is the Alexander curse when removed from Thor features. Although there is time to recuperate, and her performances in both Last Seen Alive and The Minute You Wake Up Dead are of admirably standard quality for this sort of feature, a pairing of the two would make for a tremendously dull experience. Jittering set pieces and the expectations reaching rock bottom, Last Seen Alive is a shameful waste of two talented leads. Butler on a good day can maintain these features, but when it runs on as a bootleg feature-length episode of NCIS, the characters and concepts diminish rapidly.
Plenty of shouting and swearing, but not too much shooting. Butler does beat up a balding meth addict with a crowbar, imitating the terrible admissions Liam Neeson made in the press junkets for Cold Pursuit. Inspiration strikes from the darkest of places, it would seem. Either way, these shaky camera settings, the grisly moments which see Butler chase down a fellow named Frank, are dull but held together by the simple fact of Spann being an absolute tool of a lead. He unconvincingly staggers through the woods, desperately attempting to convince henchmen and the like that his random appearance, sweating and bruised in the woods, is completely natural and harmless. Last Seen Alive has bits of those hilarious interactions intact although playing them straight is a hard-fought battle.
A losing battle, too. Butler is still the firm hand, a last action hero as it were and is rounding up as many pieces of the puzzle as he can. But he finds himself paddling while Goodman and writer, Marc Frydman, are out of their depth. There they drown in the sweaty horrors of backwater hunting; meth labs and the like are found with a real lack of attention to detail. Last Seen Alive could be a true crime adaptation peddled by Starz or FXX, for its budget, is spent upon the arrival of a grizzled, half-heartedly interested Butler. Too small a setting for big moments of action-packed heroism, too unfocused to manipulate the emotions. Massage it a little further and there it is, something worth witnessing. Not this one, not this time.