J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Last Man Club: Their Final Flight

The B-17 “Flying Fortress” is the iconic plane of WWII. The Memphis Belle was one. It is also what Pete Williams and his comrades flew. They survived the war, but not unscathed. With time running short for Williams, his old captain John “Eagle” Pennell will try to assemble what is left of the crew for a final hurrah in Bo Brinkman’s Last Man Club (trailer here), which releases today on VOD.

Williams suffered from long bouts of depression after the war (he had good reason), but Pennel lived a relatively happy and productive life. Yet, despite his close relationship with his grandson Taylor, he has yet to bounce back from his beloved wife’s death. However, when he gets a letter from Williams putting the onus on him to reassemble the crew, it might be exactly what Pennel needs. Of course, he will have to sneak off without his family’s approval, but he will quickly team up with Romy, a woman on the run from her abusive gangster ex-boyfriend. Soon the Feds and the mob are tailing them, as they make pit-stops to pick-up additional crew members sharing Williams’ disappointment in their golden years.

Expanded from Brinkman’s 2002 short film of the same name (starring the late Charles Durning), Club is achingly well-intentioned and faultlessly respectful of the Army Air Corp veterans. However, the narrative essentially recycles elements of films like Tough Guys and the original Going in Style. Frankly, the subplot involving Romy’s criminal past is half-baked at best, but Kate French develops some nice friendly-flirtatious chemistry with all the flight crew veterans, especially James MacKrell as Pennel. However, among the crusty old salts, it is probably Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure, WarGames) who fares best as Williams.

It is too bad there are not more flying scenes in Club, but it is all too clear Brinkman was working under some pretty severe budget constraints. It is also hard to believe these old Army buddies use such bland language when they finally reconnect, but so be it. The Greatest Generation deserves a better film, but for those in the mood for a sentimental journey (two Glenn Miller references in one review), Last Man Club releases today on VOD platforms, including iTunes.

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