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‘THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY’ Review: A wildly inventive crime thriller boasting exceptional writing and performances

Francis Galluppi‘s feature directorial debut, The Last Stop in Yuma County evokes the atmosphere of iconic 1970s crime thrillers while injecting it with a wicked sense of humour. If you’re itching for a taut, Hitchcockian thriller with the slick dialogue of Tarantino’s best work and a healthy dose of satirical hostage situation humour a la Cadillac Man and Fargo, then you’re in for one hell of a ride, even if the film’s plot involves characters who have all run out of gas.

The film centers on a young traveling knife salesman (Jim Cummings) who gets stuck waiting for the next fuel truck at a remote Arizona rest stop. Choosing to wait in the adjoining diner, he soon finds himself caught up in a high-stakes hostage situation when two similarly stranded bank robbers storm the diner with no reservations about what they might have to do to protect their blood-stained, ill-earned fortune.

The film’s narrative skilfully weaves its way from one group of characters to another, all trapped in the confines of the diner, with precise and succinctly written dialogue that captures the viewers’ attention, crackling with just the right amount of wit, suspense and personality to establish characters that are both fascinatingly flawed and endearingly relatable. If it weren’t for Gallutti’s meticulous attention to character development and the stellar performances of his ensemble cast, the film’s confined setting could have quickly fallen flat. But here, the scrupulous orchestration of the dialogue and camerawork lends itself to an experience that is by turns frantic, funny and impossible to turn away from.

Speaking of the cast, having such an extensive and inspired ensemble not only makes the film more enjoyable, but also adds to its depth and unpredictability, as seeing familiar faces often throws you off the scent, leaving you constantly guessing and never knowing who is going to double-cross who. Cummings is perfectly cast as the knife salesman who isn’t particularly sharp in the art of selling knives and so, as you can imagine, is probably not the best person to try and talk his way out of a hostage situation. And then Jocelin Donahue strikes a perfect balance between warmth and bravery as the quick-thinking waitress trying to covertly get help whenever she gets the chance. The criminal duo of Richard Brake and Nicholas Logan also complement each other perfectly, mixing humour and menace in their robbery-gone-wrong circumstance. And the rest of the cast does the film equal justice, even the smaller cameo roles from the likes of Alex Essoe or Barbara Crampton, who we don’t typically see in such minor roles, but given the strong script they have to work with, it’s no surprise they wanted to be a part of it.

The fact that this is Galluppi’s feature directorial debut and that he wore so many hats here (writer, director, editor, producer) just boggles my mind, so it’s no wonder Sam Raimi snapped him straight up to helm the next instalment of the legendary Evil Dead franchise, regardless of the fact that this is so far removed from that franchise or even genre. Lee Cronin made so much out of so little with Evil Dead Rise, turning a high-rise apartment complex into a pressure cooker of terror, and now, based on his stunning debut, Galluppi clearly has the vision and chops to build on Cronin’s recent approach.

Bottom line, this wildly inventive crime thriller serves as a brilliant introduction to Galluppi’s talents and immense potential as a director. With its unique blend of neo-noir aesthetics, exceptional writing and performances, and tense yet quirky narrative, The Last Stop in Yuma County is arguably one of the very best feature directorial debuts in recent memory, and one that I wouldn’t be surprised finds itself a cult following as it showcases his potential to soon find himself in the same league as such seminal directors as Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and Edgar Wright.

VERDICT:

The Last Stop in Yuma Country will release in Theaters & On Digital this coming May 10, 2024. It is available for pre-order here.

You can also watch our interviews with Francis Galluppi and Jim Cummings over here.

Where to watch THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY
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