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Last Day of Summer
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by brianorndorf

"DJ Qualls does De Niro"
1 stars

A bleak cinematic odyssey into the splintered mind of a broken man dangling at the end of his rope shouldn’t star DJ Qualls. The lanky actor channels his inner Travis Bickle for “Last Day of Summer,” a drama that doesn’t fully flesh out the stillborn points it’s aching to make. Needlessly heavy without any actual story to tell, the feature comes across as a vanity project for Qualls (who produces), a comedically inclined actor incapable of carrying the necessary dramatic weight.

George (DJ Qualls) is having a rough adulthood. Bullied and defeated, the young man is ready to exact revenge on those who’ve ruined his life, starting with Mr. Crolick (William Sadler), his abusive manager at a local fast food restaurant. Armed with a gun, George is prepared to kick off a bloodbath to make his mark, but, at the moment of opportunity, he catches the eyes of patron Stefanie (Nikki Reed), jumping to the assumption that she’s interested in him. Quickly realizing he was wrong about her intentions, George panics, kidnapping the frightened girl instead, heading back to his hotel room to figure out his next move. Crolick, now aware of George’s plan, spends the rest of the day on edge, waiting for the inevitable to happen.

Written and directed by Vlad Yudin, “Last Day of Summer” is a particularly lifeless piece of filmmaking. From a squinted perspective, it’s tonally ambitious, and Reed is good for a few forlorn beats of distress, but the overall project misfires wildly, working from a screenplay that wanders aimlessly, thinking itself to be a critical discussion of social isolation and human mistreatment. Yudin might be a passionate fellow, but his imagination is severely limited, creating a movie of complete inertia, devoid of any sort of consequence, baiting the viewer with violent, bullet-happy scenarios from George that are either imagined or bungled. I found myself having trouble processing George’s rage, which isn’t sold with the type of menace the character clearly yearns for. Instead, it’s a gray area of frustration that doesn’t retain any sort of encouraging or horrifying direction.

I wish I could write that “Last Day of Summer” moved me with its harrowing depiction of pre-massacre fuming. For that to occur, it would require someone other than Qualls to take over the lead role. The wispy one has built his career as a visual punchline, and while I applaud his effort to stretch as an actor, this film is beyond his skill level. The picture should be an unnerving creation of hostility and fate, but Yudin insists on comedic detours, encouraging fecal-based clowning from Qualls and Sadler to breathe a little levity into a film about a planned rampage of gunfire. The funny business is ineffective, but so is the rest of the script, which soon brings together George and Stefanie as soulmates, bound by a shared history of neglect as they spend the afternoon lounging around a hotel room implausibly trading backstories.

The jokes are pointless, the idea that the leads would connect after such a violent introduction is absurd, and the “yay, life!” conclusion is insulting. Yudin needed to dig into the grit of the concept, probing deep into the abyss of self-loathing. Instead, he’s made a meaningless drama that drags to a foregone conclusion.

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originally posted: 11/13/10 02:23:12
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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-Nov-2010



Directed by
  Vlad Yudin

Written by
  Vlad Yudin

  DJ Qualls
  Nikki Reed
  William Sadler

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