Here’s some bottom of the barrel sci-fi, folks — slow-cooked to perfection and braised in poor CGI, limited locations, convoluted backstory, wooden performances, and lots of ridiculous gunfights.
From writer/director Jesse V. Johnson comes post-apocalyptic extravaganza The Last Sentinel. It’s the future! Who knows when? After crime and general nonconformity swept the United States, police officers were replaced with genetically engineered drone soldiers — living men stripped of reason and emotion, useful only as black-clad hammers in search of criminal nails. The drones eventually decided that taking over from the humans would be the best way forward, and destroyed most of human civilization.
While this was happening, the military developed its own genetically engineered supersoldiers, only these were the good guys, capable of genuine heroism and all that other fine stuff one gets with the white hats. They ended up being the last hope of humanity, but in a lengthy gun battle shown in the movie as flashback, they lost. Fast forward many years, and there is but a single survivor of this elite fighting unit left. He is Tallis (Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson), and all he does is walk around a small patch of the wastes in lieu of orders, accompanied by an AI named Angel (voiced by Dawnn Lewis), who lives in his rifle scope.
One day, Tallis witnesses a drone attack on some resistance fighters in the Universal backlot (get used to seeing this set), and is able to rescue one of them. She is billed simply as Girl (Katee Sackhoff), a fighter who has been tasked with infiltrating a nearby drone base and doing some science stuff to it that should end the drone threat forever. This piques Tallis’s interest, as he has been looking to get back in the fight. After a light training montage filmed on a roof in downtown Los Angeles (one can’t help but notice the lack of broken windows and the presence of office lights in nearby buildings), it’s off to the most-used set in the film, eclipsing even the liberal use of the backlot.
Nestled between Ventura, California, to the south and Ojai to the north, on California State Route 33, lies the ruins of a refinery owned by USA Petroleum, and closed in the 1980s after locals stopped an effort at expansion. After decades of being abandoned, it became the perfect site to film post-apocalyptic sci-fi on the cheap, and Johnson couldn’t get enough of its rusting pipes, derelict buildings, and crumbling concrete. He used it for multiple locations in the film, both in flashback and in the main plot.
Gunfights galore abound. Good guys and bad guys square off mere feet from each other, but it takes a hell of a lot more shooting on the part of the bad guys to kill any of the good guys. The last fight by the supersoldiers was filmed here, and we get to see Tallis’s compatriots, including his commanding officer, played by Keith David, and his war buddy, played by Bokeem Woodbine, lose their lives in bloody fashion.
More fighting at the refinery, the location this time serving as the main drone base, leads to the introduction of super drones, who have replaced their black leather and machine guns for red leather and matching katanas. This flick really is an adolescent boy’s idea of hard-hitting science fiction. The only way it could have been more appropriate for that demo was if there had been a decent amount of gratuitous nudity.
If one has seen enough of the crap SyFy serves its viewers (where this flick made its debut), then there’s no need to go further into plot or events therein. This movie is a dog. But, if that is what one likes, well…
Don Wilson is a block of wood, but it’s right for his character. Sackhoff was right in the middle of her run on Battlestar Galactica, and must have been doing a favor for someone at SyFy. Keith David picked up an easy paycheck, and I don’t know what happened to Bokeem Woodbine for him to land in this movie. His character was all set up for a big twist at the end that never happened. His performance didn’t match the tone of the film, either.
This movie is all about the action. The gunfights and explosions are on a grand scale, but not the execution. All those rounds expended and loud booms, and not a bit of it was done well. That’s quite an accomplishment in shitty filmmaking.
The Last Sentinel did right by going hard on the braindead action. It had to, with all that backstory. It helps the watchability quite a bit compared to so-called action flicks way down in the Watchability Index that are dull slogs. It’s not enough to keep it out of the bottom half, where it lands at #288, taking over from The Stuff.