A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town.A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town.A drifting gunslinger-for-hire finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between the Irish and Italian mafia in a Prohibition era ghost town.
Since then, I have watched all the films several times. Now is as good a time as any to reflect on the matter again.
The Last Man Standing does not hold up as well as I had hoped; the saturated sepia tones of the film now appear to be a mannerist affectation. It was certainly a transitional film for Willis - the role is pretty heavy - but the Sixth Sense rewrote the book on Willis far better than any of his other off-cast roles could, since (unlike the others) it never made any pretense at being an action film. The voice over is a little pretentious. And its clear that Hill let the Gothic tone of the film overwhelm his efforts at black comedy. And oddly enough, despite its violence the film could use more action.
Yet the film remains historically important, if nothing else, because it now appears to have been the last of a cycle. Although even Jean-Claude Van Damme actually appeared in a "Yojumbo" clone - "Desert Heat" - and there have been other attempts to revive Hammett's essential narrative (e.g. the "Doom" robot film by Albert Pyun) the fact remains that the nameless outsider quick on the draw is fast slipping into the realm of pure 20th century myth. He doesn't really belong in the era of Computer graphics, invasions of Iraq, wars against non-existent terrorism. His blood is part whiskey, but it's human blood; and he may be a killer, but he won't be a party to genocide. He's too real, and yet too good, for the 21st century rushing in on us.
I take the darkly sepia-toned Last Man Standing as a final farewell to a hero of the previous century, just as Hitchcock's 39 Steps effectively said farewell to the romantic adventurer of the 19th century. Every era has its heroes; and it is sad that Sanjuro/John Smith/the Man with No Name can no longer be one of ours. It's probably too much to ask, but hopefully someone better - or at least as good - will come along.
-E. J. Winner.
- Jun 25, 2006