If director Vlad Yudin had settled for a firm idea, rooted in plausibility, dialog, and human interest, his film Last Day of Summer wouldn't be the mess that it is. Unfortunately, though, the film is rooted in dirty-minded humor and boasts a premise it can't bare to support. As we watch two very strong actors lumber through many ill-conceived situations and undercooked plot developments, lacking all the tension and the character resonance needed for the story to work, it becomes clear that Yudin's attempt wasn't to offer maybe a catalyst or a relief, but rather, to provoke a cheap, unnecessary laugh at the bumbling qualities of the insane.
The film is lead, and mostly carried, by DJ Qualls, who I always regard as a nice touch on any film he is in, whether it be the average Delta Farce and Road Trip or the near-abysmal work The New Guy. Qualls is easily the most redeeming thing about the film as he played Gregory (nicknamed "Joe" by himself), a disgruntled and often belittled fast food employee with plans to go on a violent killing spree at the restaurant after being fired by his cruel, immature boss. Gregory buys a small gun, fills it with bullets, but chickens out at the last minute because he sees a fellow fast food patron (Nikki Reed) look over at him. When trying to talk to her outside the building, while she's on her phone, he gets mad at her rudeness and the fact he is being ignored, snaps, and points the gun at her hip. He takes her back to a motel room he rented out, successfully kidnapping her with no certain agenda or plan of action whatsoever.
What unfolds is a talky but only mildly interesting story about this troubled man, his quest to prove to others he is a "solider of his destiny," and him dealing with the notion he just kidnapped a woman who wasn't doing anything wrong. I give credit to the film for being unpredictable, but its unpredictability is an afterthought when watching a film like this. At no point was I ever regarding the writing of the film as so profound and nonlinear that I didn't know what would happen next. It was more of a feeling along the lines of, "this film is so asinine, what could possibly come next?" It's also sad to note how much capable talent was discarded here. Not just Qualls in the lead role, but Reed in the supporting role. Reed's performance in Thirteen, which was semi-autobiographical about her life, was a stunning one of true adolescent dysfunction. Here, she is resorted to being a caricature, barely given any story or development whatsoever. At one point she tells "Joe" that she needs to get home to take care of her young son. Her concern is never addressed by "Joe" or her ever again.
Under more assertive direction and less toilet humor, Last Day of Summer could've worked as a stunning examination into the mind of an uncontrollable madman with a listless agenda. Instead, it is a movie barely lifted up by the work of its two stars, who may lack chemistry even in more dramatic scenes, but still manage to hold their own ground throughout the movie. In retrospect, Yudin's film works as a "what no to do" analysis on making a film about the insane.
Starring: DJ Qualls, Nikki Reed, and William Sadler. Directed by: Vlad Yudin.