The Last Drop

The Last DropThe Last Drop is an odd one. For one thing, you don’t get many British war films nowadays: considering that it was one of the most profitable of genres for producers for so many years, the decline is pretty phenomenal. And the ones that you do get tend to be thoughtful, high-profile productions, in which the war is just a tragic part of the story (such as Atonement). For another, it so nearly works: all the ingredients are there for an enjoyable, decent film. And yet… for reasons that are quite hard to put your finger on, it doesn’t really work.

During a concerted push by allied forces into occupied Holland, a squad of soldiers are dropped into the countryside near Antwerp. They have a particular mission, but after the death of their commanding officer nobody really knows what it is. Nonetheless, under the command of flippant RAF Lietenant Oates (Billy Zane) and tough Sergeant McMillan (Sean Pertwee), they make their way to their rendezvous point and an isolated farmhouse. Here it becomes clear that their task has very little to do with winning the war: they’re actually expected to retreive a huge hoard of treasure and valuable artworks that have been stashed there by the Nazis. Figuring that nobody will notice if a few things go ‘missing’, they decide to carry out their mission, but only if they’re able to make a bit of a p[rofit on the side.

Meanwhile, however, a number of other interested parties also have their sights set on the stash. SS Major Kessler (Laurence Fox) wants it all for himself, as do a couple of German soldiers (Karel Roden, Alexander Skarsgard), who also have a personal grudge against Kessler, and gung-ho American Colonel JT Colt (Micheal Madsen) also fancies having a go at ‘retrieving’ it.

The script is obviously much influed by Kelly’s Heroes, and in its favour this is an entertaining enough film that isn’t badly put together. It also has a good cast, with a number of seasoned stars of medium budget UK productions (Pertwee, Nick Moran, Tommy Flanagan), familiar faces from TV (Rafe Spall, a cameo from Jack Dee(!)) and international stars (Zane, Madsen). Even David Ginola, ex-footballer and nototious haircut, turns up in a minor role (and is pretty damn good, even if he doesn’t have to say much)

However, somehow it doesn’t quite work. For one thing, a number of the characters aren’t quite developed enough, which makes it hard to care a great deal about them. Part of the problem is that there are simply too many of them: it’s almost as though there are two different films around the same theme battling it out. It would possibly all have worked better if it was shot purely from the perspective of the English squad, or alternatively stuck to following the entertainingly dodgy Roden and Skarsgard (which could have been developed into something resembling a WW2 reinterpretation of The Good, the Bad and The Ugly). As it is, it ends up being a bit of a mess. It could also have probably done with a slightly stronger villain: Laurence Fox isn’t a bad actor, but it could have done with someone who could have put more dastardly relish into the part (it’s the kind of role that would have been played by Klaus Kinski back in the early seventies, and could have done with someone similar)

Furthermore, it never quite manages to build up any kind of tension; you never get a true sense of the danger that the characters are in. Again, this is partly a result of the somewhat loose scripting, and with a little more attention and care it could have been a lot more effective.

Not bad, then, but ultimately something of a disappointment.

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