The Last Great Wilderness

The Last Great Wilderness


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Influences and ideas are tripping over each other in a film that hints at promise while offering an alphabet soup of genre clich├ęs. Everything from Dogme 95 to Hammer Horror to Roman Polanski to The Wicker Man to John Boorman's Deliverance is tossed into the mix. The result stifles giggles as lines, such as "The world is a very confusing place," spoken by a man after making love, are sacrificed on the altar of Naff.

It is not the dialogue so much as the details that slip off the edge. The Highlands of Scotland are seen as a place where no rules apply, being so far from civilisation that anything goes, even murder. The eccentricity of isolation is well covered, but having a gamekeeper stay in a caravan on the windiest part of a mountain side takes credibility for granted. Also, no one wraps up. It's the back end of winter, with snow on the tops, and yet these people wander the hills with practically no clothes on. Have they not heard of hypothermia?

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The plot makes as much sense as a French haggis. Charlie (Alistair Mackenzie, co-writer and brother of the director, David Mackenzie) is driving to Skye to burn down the house of a pop singer, when he picks up Vince (Jonny Phillips), a gigolo on the run from a client's husband.

To cut a long story's legs off, they end up in a middle-of-nowhere hotel, managed by a R D Laing clone (David Hayman), who disapproves of guests, despite the Tennants lager sign outside. He has people staying who fit the membership requirements for Oddballs Anonymous, mostly in therapy.

Vince is the kind of person you want to push off a cliff and Charlie has a quiet, even temperament, watchful without being assertive. Slowly, they begin to understand the nature of the situation and what the landlord/psychiatrist means by "We had a bit of a tragedy a couple of years ago." The deeply insensitive Vince falls in love with a ghost and the passive Charlie gets lucky with a single mum (Victoria Smurfit), whose son is conveniently out of sight for most of the movie.

Without lingering on the line, "Would you be wanting two rooms, or are you homosexual?", the film fails to answer the question, "Why didn't Charlie dump Vince at the next Services when he knew the guy was bad news?"

On the plus side, Smurfit has expressions that stir the blood and Alistair Mackenzie does a fine job, playing The Graduate's Scottish cousin. On the minus side, David Mackenzie disappoints those who admire his short films. Think of the scene when Vince is staggering across the moor in evening dress and gold shoes, watched by a pair of silent hitmen, who must have telepathic powers because how else would they have found him?

In the words of John McEnroe, "You CANNOT be serious!"

Reviewed on: 08 May 2003
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Two men take refuge in a retreat for lost souls in the countryside.
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Gator MacReady *

Director: David Mackenzie

Writer: Michael Tait, Alistair Mackenzie, David Mackenzie, Gillian Berrie

Starring: Alistair Mackenzie, Jonny Phillips, Victoria Smurfit, David Hayman, Ewan Stewart, Ford Kiernan, Sheila Donald, Martin Bell

Year: 2002

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2002

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