“The Last Thing He Wanted” is a very particular kind of bad movie. It’s not the kind that bores with repetition, like “The Grudge”. Nor is it the kind that astounds with childish ineptitude like “Dolittle”. This is the kind of bad movie that is simply not good. They tried to make a good thriller and they failed.
The film, in its own little world, thinks it’s telling a story of a testy female journalist named Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) taking on the bait-and-switch world of the drug trade. In the end, the film is undercooked, confusing, and longer than it really is.
The shame is in the potential it wastes. Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Rosie Perez. A dynamic cast that has proven itself more than capable goes virtually unused. Despite Anne Hathaway being the sole cast member with clear commitment, it is deflected off of unclear intent. The film is so confused with its own identity, that despite showing copious amounts of talent in front of and behind the camera (Dee Rees as director), it ends up tripping over its own feet.
But at the root of all failure is found in Dee’s editing. This is a masterclass of what not to do in the editing room. An assumption we can make is that they shot too much footage, wanted to use all of it, and ended up overcomplicating things in the editing room. Title cards come in and leave without giving us the time to read them. Plot threads scamper away and fall off a cliff, never to be heard from again. As soon as one location is established, another is introduced. The film is a mess.
The beginning and end are the apex of its incompetency. Dee’s book ends are like the way high schoolers are taught to read essays–if you can’t think of a conclusion, just copy the introduction but tell it in reverse. Hathaway delivers the same soapbox narration she did in the beginning, creating an assumption of narrative fulfillment. Instead, the disconnect between Dee’s writing and the audience increases.
And in an out of place, abnormal final shot of Hathaway falling into the ocean, the film ends. Not in shock or disbelief, but in haughty confusion.
When I think of bad movies caught up in their own gibberish I think of Zack Snyder’s “Suckerpunch” or M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”. “The Last Thing He Wanted”, despite being less artifice, ranks among these films in its own semi-conscious way.