THE LAST OF THE FINEST is a cop actioner featuring four of the finest character actors working in American films today. Brian Dennehy, Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Fahey, and Bill Paxton play Frank Daly, Wayne Gross, Ricky Rodriguez, and Howard "Hojo" Jones, the four members of an elite unit of
the Los Angeles Police Department, assigned to crack the cases no one else can solve. As the film opens, they are close to breaking up a large drug ring operating out of a meat-packing company. Led by Daly (who, according to police records, is a marginal personality: an obsessive near-alcoholic
who stops at nothing to get his man), the group raids the meat-packing company and comes up virtually empty. Scolded by their superiors for neither waiting for proper backup nor informing the FBI, the cops are put on suspension, and begin their own, private investigations. The close-knit group
(whose families also socialize) stumbles upon more and more startling information, involving rich businessmen, dirty FBI agents, and corrupt government officials. After the cops question a hooker to get information on a businessman they have been trailing, she is beaten up and hides in a hotel.
Daly and his group go to the hotel, discover her corpse, and see the murderer fleeing from the scene. Jones pursues the killer by car and follows him to a remote canyon. There, Jones is attacked from behind and killed. The rest of the unit arrives too late to catch the killer, and the LAPD's
internal affairs division is brought in to investigate the affair, since the men were on suspension when the incident occurred. Eventually, Daly, Rodriguez, and Gross turn in their badges and continue their battle as vigilantes. After trailing a businessman to a government meeting on sending arms
to Central America, they videotape him (without sound) making a deal with a government official, then use the expertise of an old retired cop to figure out what is being said on the tape, giving them further leads on the drug ring. Later, they raid a warehouse where the drugs are stored and the
money is laundered, and inadvertently steal a truck full of money ($22.5 million, to be exact). They contemplate keeping this money for themselves, until threats against their families' lives drive them to compromise. The men have uncovered a conspiracy that involves the US government in a
possible weapons-for-drugs deal with parties in Central America. With their families in hiding, Daly and gang decide to strike a deal with the crooks (who include the once trusted, but now corrupt, lieutenant of their department). They will turn over the money, provided Daly can come face to face
with the man behind it all, a certain R.J. Norringer (Guy Boyd). A meeting is set, and the film climaxes with a huge shootout that results in Norringer's death and the unit's reinstatement in the LAPD. In the end, a family park is dedicated in the fallen Jones' name and the group is finally happy.
But a televised statement from the White House (by an aide who was involved in the deal) denies any knowledge of the mysterious conspiracy and implies a solid future for arms deals with Central America. It seems the story is not over.
Impeccably photographed by the highly talented Juan Ruiz-Anchia (HOUSE OF GAMES) and professionally put together, THE LAST OF THE FINEST is a solid action yarn that moves along at an agreeable pace. Director John Mackenzie (THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY) handles the complicated and, unfortunately,
predictable script strongly, making up for the huge plot holes and annoying inconsistencies. Guessing who the bad guys are (though it's very easy here) seems to be half the fun, and watching the performers is a pleasure. Dennehy is, as usual, a strong presence, but his part is underdeveloped and
misleading. The darker side of Daly's personality--his drinking and obsessiveness--is never really brought into play effectively, and his relationship with his wife (SHAME's Deborra-Lee Furness) is not entirely convincing. As the remaining three squad members, Paxton (NEAR DARK; ALIENS),
Pantoliano (MIDNIGHT RUN), and Fahey (WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART) fare better, their characters entailing less development and more pure personality, allowing these three exceptional character actors to do what they do best, though Paxton's role is regrettably small. As a group, they establish a
sense of male camaraderie among the cops that adds to the picture's plausibility and provides plenty of laughs.
The film's action sequences are routine--if not bland at times--but always watchable, the plot developments are handled with the right buildup and pay-off, and the climax is exciting. It's all by-the-numbers and predictably executed, but what sets this picture apart from other cop films (besides
the truly extraordinary cinematography) is its surprisingly strong political stance. The final minutes, featuring the White House speech, present a striking and unusually venomous cynicism concerning "trustworthy" government. It's an odd viewpoint in this genre, and though the politics in THE LAST
OF THE FINEST seem as confused as the politics of John Carpenter's clever satire THEY LIVE, the film's final note of doubt is effective and undeniably refreshing. Overall, THE LAST OF THE FINEST is a serviceable thriller that's worth a look. (Violence, profanity, adult situations, substanceabuse.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: THE LAST OF THE FINEST is a cop actioner featuring four of the finest character actors working in American films today. Brian Dennehy, Joe Pantoliano, Jeff Fahey, and Bill Paxton play Frank Daly, Wayne Gross, Ricky Rodriguez, and Howard "Hojo" Jones, the f… (more)