9 February 2010 | lor_
Good intentions, but pitifully poor film-making results.
Still photographers turned film directors can climb to the heights of their adopted profession: look at successes ranging from Russ Meyer to Stanley Kubrick. Sadly, Harvey Wang in his feature debut heads directly for Palookaville.
Despite the high rating on IMDb, presumably from votes by crew members and friends of the family, THE LAST NEW YORKER is yet another of the thousands of recent indie productions that prove to be unreleasable. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, sitting through it is a long, hard slog.
SOPRANOS thesp Chianese has the lead role nailed, and is an unfortunate victim of being stuck in a bad movie. He plays an elderly Jewish fellow with panache, until poor writing (by the film's producer and probable bankroller) turns him into a sort of prescient Bernie Madoff, bilking elderly friends & associates out of their life savings in what plays out very distastefully on screen. You want to head immediately for the exit when the story takes this unfortunate turn.
Wang's uninteresting visual style (or lack of it) and cheap film-making make for an ugly depiction of Gotham, rather than the Valentine one usually gets from as disparate a group of hometown boys as Lumet, Allen and Spike Lee. This is the type of little movie that would have looked better in black & white, made in the '60s, perhaps in the manner of my old friend, unsung indie director Jack O'Connell (see: GREENWICH VILLAGE STORY).
Instead we have our hero endlessly kvetching, giving his best buddy Dick Latessa (a nothing role and 1-note performance) a hard time, then stalking a woman (again losing any residual audience sympathy) played by Kathleen Chalfant -another 1-note turn of wide-eyed/nervous laugh tics, and finally becoming suicidal when his retirement funds are all frittered away due to bad investments. Film is not helped by a tacked-on, unconvincing happy ending.
On the shelf for several years (copyright reads 2006 on the print) with fake shooting dates stored in IMDb to make it seem newer, THE LAST NEW YORKER is the sort of movie that only a died-in-the-wool film fanatic (the kind who will watch anything that runs through a projector) or bush league film festival director could tolerate. Novelists, from J.D. Salinger on down, have the luxury of balling up their efforts and tossing them in the waste basket, but film-making, even at the low-budget level, ends up with misfires like this one that -embarrassingly linger on...