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'THE LAST SENTINEL' HAS 'OLD SCHOOL GRIT'

(review by Gordo Loving)

Kung Fu Cinema (January 31, 2007) Taking place in the not-too-distant future, mankind is on the brink of extinction. Police drones, created by us to protect us, have destroyed the human population. One of the survivors, a mostly human soldier named Tallis spends his days scavenging and avoiding the drones. He has become a reluctant soldier.

Much like Jesse Johnson’s second feature length film, the brutal “Pit Fighter”, “The Last Sentinel” is about the lead character finding redemption and finding something in him that gives him a purpose in life. Tallis, played by Don Wilson (no “The Dragon” moniker anymore) is a soldier with no leader, and therefore no real cause. But one day he saves the life of a woman, Katee Sackhoff, who tells him of a resistance group that is prepared to fight the drones until the bitter and bloody end. And with this Tallis is reborn.

At first glance “The Last Sentinel” could be called a mish-mash of something like “Soldier meets Black Hawk Down.” And in a way it is, but that does not demean the film in any way. Make no mistake about it; this is an action film first and foremost that takes place in a sci-fi environment. “Sentinel” does take a cue from more modern war movies like “Black Hawk Down” and “Saving Private Ryan.” After a rousing speech by non other than the always-memorable Keith David as the Colonel, Tallis, Anchilles (Bokeem Woodbine), and a few more soldiers try to give hell to the drones. This sequence is an expertly choreographed display of pyrotechnics and violence. Bullets destroy bodies (in graphic detail) and bombs explode while Tallis and Anchilles make their way through drone forces. Shot much like “Black Hawk” with hand held cameras, the action sequences put you right there with Tallis. While I would have appreciated more hand-to-hand combat in the film, especially after how impressed I was after watching “Pit Fighter”, Jesse Johnson and his fight choreographer Luke LaFontaine keep the action brief and realistic. After all, a soldier’s hands are his last resource. Why use them when you have guns that can kill the enemy in fractions of a second? That’s not to say Tallis doesn’t use his God given weapons, along with some swift knife and swordplay. The majority of the action here is gunplay, and much like “Pit Fighter” the action quotient is high and of a high caliber.

Production wise the film looks more expensive than the figures I read as the budget. Robert Hayes, the DP, needs to be commended as he captures the action and brings a much bigger expensive look to the film. Costume wise the drones look like relatives of the police force from “Equilibrium.” The newer more advanced drones get the dark red, blood tones, but stay true to the original drones design. While I felt the film could benefit from more added rubble, like more burnt cars and bullet riddled buildings, the overall look of the film is good. Much like the later films of the now sadly defunct action studio PM Entertainment, the crew behind “The Last Sentinel” put together a quality production with small resources.

Don Wilson comes into his own here as an actor, rather than just that guy from those “Bloodfist” films. I have always like Don Wilson as he has always had the “everyman” appeal. No big muscles or bad accent, Don just seemed like your next-door neighbor with a punching bag hung from his carport ceiling. And that is exactly what makes him almost a perfect choice for the role of Tallis. Soldiers are meant to be in shape obviously, but they need not stick out like a sore thumb. They need to be quick and agile, almost cat-like. Don is that. Katee Sackhoff is no slouch either. Although she might not be as well known (for now at least) as her co-stars Keith David or Bokeem Woodbine, she has “star in the making” written all over her.

While this is quite a different story from his previous film, Johnson brings the same kind of old school grit to this production as he did with “Pit Fighter.” Think Peckinpah or Don Siegel for a new millennium, as opposed to the Attention Deficit Disorder styling of Michael Bay and McG.

While “The Last Sentinel” takes place in a bleak environment, the characters in the film seem to have a good outlook. Given, this isn’t a “Rocky” story, but every human in the film is essentially at rock bottom. Instead of sitting down and dying most of the human population in film decide to stand up and fight for something. The only place they have left to go is higher, and that, along with the copious amounts of good action, is why highly recommend “The Last Sentinel” for the action junkie who needs a good fix.


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