Written and directed by Phil Stubbs, Flynn (Ellis J. Wells) and Aiden (Harry Dyer) embark on an adventure to retrieve a bag of money, to pay off a debt to a veteran gangster, encountering difficult situations along their way. Also starring: Lisa Ronaghan, Brian Croucher, Emily Carding and Larry Rew.
It’s a good thing that average joes in real life don’t get caught up in gangsters’ affairs as often as in film, or at least they hopefully don’t, Flynn is another such man, dragged into criminal affairs by his unreliable best friend. The film very quickly establishes its tone and sense of humour, it’s modern but very typically British, taking its first sarcastic stab at the madness of modern interview processes and their inane questions, which everyone can relate to. One of the other aspects that instantly stands out is the refreshing change to see a story like this taking place outside of London, filmed in Gloucestershire, Stubbs does often take advantage of the picturesque landscapes, as well as mixing in the residential and urban areas to create a more grounded and realistic atmosphere.
Flynn is a slightly unusual character and at first, it’s hard to get a handle on him which is a great way to draw you gradually into the story, figuring out him and his friendship with Aiden before they go down the rabbit hole of crime. Stubbs plays around nicely with genre, it doesn’t land in one place, it flits between comedy, drama, thriller and mystery which keeps things interesting. It’s an aspect that’s certainly helped by the film’s score (by Paul Carpenter) which injects a sense of danger and risk. The comedy uses a blunt honesty, sarcasm and backhanded blend that’s familiar yet not repetitive, it’s funny and natural. The story doesn’t hold too many surprises, you can see where it’s going and while it would have been great to be more unexpected, it doesn’t fall foul of feeling overly predictable and does still move at a good pace.
Wells gives a great performance as Flynn, he’s relatable in his general disdain, nervousness and dislike of the modern tendencies towards materialism and vanity. Dyer fits the role of Aiden well, he has that devil-may-care attitude and free-wheeling personality that adds a classic humour to the film. While Ronaghan’s Jen does get involved in the story, it would have been even better to see her more integral to the film as a whole, she adds a great deal of personality with her role and there’s a satisfying edge to the character that’s fun to watch, and it feels like she had more to say.
Stubbs’ direction keeps things moving forward, there’s a good variety of shots and the style very much fits that malleable take on genres, having a mix of comedy and crime caper feel to it. However the visual could be stronger, its colour palette feels slightly bland and might have benefited from adding a few more drops of vibrancy to the mix to emphasise a higher energy especially in its more dangerous moments.
Last Chancers is funny, very British and entertaining, it takes a relatively familiar set-up but still manages to feel new. It’s a fun blend of genres, it leans towards comedy but Stubbs’ did well to not limit himself to that and let the film play around with different elements. Wells and Dyer make a classic odd couple, trying to tidy up a mess they should have never been involved in and create a convincing friendship, which is only improved when Ronaghan turns the duo into a trio. With the sheer amount of content on streaming services, that you could never get through in two lifetimes, this is the sort of hidden gem you should be looking for.
[…] At Dawn brings a new perspective to war stories, the shocking amount of fresh-faced, inexperienced young men, barely out of childhood that were sent onto the battlefield in WWI is not a factor often explored. It has a thoughtful style to its direction, understated but easily grasping the ethical and emotional aspects to its story. There’s a strong cast led confidently by a hugely sympathetic and kind portrayal from Tom Cuthbertson. It’s a nice change of pace to see a war story approached from a different angle and an impressive debut short from Stubbs, who went on to direct his first feature in 2020 Last Chancers. […]