D: Eric Colley / 109m
Cast: Hallie Shepherd, Wes Ramsey, Shawn Christian, Casper Van Dien, Alexis Monnie, Ted Rooney, Richard Carmen, Eric Colley
When Summer (Shepherd) discovers that her boss, Dex (Colley), is knee-deep in murder and corruption, she does so through finding two bodies brought to him by local crime boss, Lance (Christian), for disposal. When matters worsen, and Lance kills another of Dex’s employees at the same time, Summer – who has captured the murder on her phone – makes a run for it. She gets to her car but loses control trying to get away; she’s thrown clear and her car blows up. When Summer wakes in the hospital, it’s to learn that she has no memory of anything that happened immediately before the crash, that she was dead for five minutes, and that she has begun to be plagued by strange visions that show her events that haven’t happened, including her death. While Lance and his gang wait for a sign that Summer is beginning to remember what happened, she begins to realise that these visions are actually premonitions. Forced to confront the very real possibility that she could soon be dead, Summer tries to piece together the reasons why someone would want her killed…
Written by its star – who also serves as producer and co-editor with Colley – Last Seen in Idaho is a moderately entertaining, but uneven mix of female-centric crime thriller and elaborate mystery drama. There’s a reason the movie runs a hundred and forty-nine minutes, and it’s because Shepherd doesn’t know how to trim a scene – either on the page or in the editing suite. This leads to several moments where the material feels like it’s been stretched too thinly, and certain scenes lack the energy or pace required to keep them interesting. The opening scenes between Summer and her sister, Trina (Monnie), are padded out, and the dialogue soon becomes repetitive, and there are lots of other scenes where some judicious pruning would have been advisable, while in others there are narrative leaps that go unexplained or barely acknowledged. Shepherd is to be congratulated on writing a script that she’s managed to get made (as well as star in, produce, and co-edit), but the services of a script editor during the production’s early stages would have been a major benefit. That said, Shepherd does use Summer’s premonitions to wrong foot the audience from time to time, and the structure itself is sound, but too much feels either extended (for no reason) or superficial.
This being a movie made on a relatively small budget, there are further limitations that harm the movie and make it unintentionally awkward, from the very sudden flip and burn of Summer’s car, to a rooftop conversation between Summer and love interest-cum-possible bad guy, Franco (Ramsey), that is so poorly lit that the background looks false. It does win points for having a strong female central lead, but then wastes that advantage by having the only other notable female role portrayed as a spoilt brat throughout, and by including an unnecessary and uncomfortably misogynistic scene where Van Dien’s callous assassin sexually assaults the girlfriend of one of the gang members. It’s this unevenness of tone and approach that ultimately stops the movie from making any headway or proving sufficiently entertaining except on a basic level. There’s ambition here, certainly, but Shepherd isn’t as good a writer as she needs to be, while Colley’s direction is flat and uninspired, and the performances all appear to operate independently of each other. It all ends in a violent, slightly cartoonish showdown that raises as many laughs as it does gasps of excitement, but is at least, one of the few times when the movie manages to elicit more than a polite reaction from the viewer.
Rating: 4/10 – many’s the time a movie could have been improved by its makers simply taking their time in assembling their picture, and paying close attention to all the working parts, but with Last Seen in Idaho, that hasn’t happened; rough and ready as a finished item, it’s a movie with plenty of ambition, but without the wherewithal to achieve – or come close to – that ambition, making it yet another movie to be filed under Missed Opportunity.