‘Last Stop in Yuma County’ Review: A Sharp Dinner Party Thriller

A roadside restaurant. Not just a place to see peeled upholstery and rodent traps, and indulge in the occasional sweet slice, but a true icon of Americana, from Edward Hopper to “Frasier.” A dinner party is the big, anxiety-filled scene where much of director Francis Galluppi’s debut feature, “The Last Stop in Yuma County,” takes place, and while this thriller is full of memorable characters, the dinner party itself- even might be his best.

“The Petrified Forest” meets Tarantino and the Coen brothers, “The Last Stop in Yuma County” revels in its American side like few films in recent memory. There’s an olive green Ford Pinto, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” playing from a jukebox, a sheriff with ’70s favorites and, of course, a few bank robbers on the run. There’s the clumsy Travis (Nicholas Logan), who inquires about the location of the facilities, repeating “Where’s the shit?” and wipes his armpits in front of the sweetest restaurant waitress (Jocelin Donahue) this side of “Twin Peaks.” His partner in crime is Beau (Richard Brake, whose Joe Chill killed Bruce Wayne’s parents in “Batman Begins,” and who also played the Night King in previous seasons of “Game of Thrones”), who has a lizard-shaped face that doesn’t blink. glance. A pure psychopath.

I saw the TV glow: the actor watches the TV show The Pink Opaque
Set of a new film by Paolo Sorrentino.  In the photo Celeste Dalla Porta.  and Stefania Sandrelli.  Photo by Gianni Fiorito This photograph is for editorial use only, the copyright belongs to the film company and the film production company's designated photographer and may only be reproduced by publications in the promotion of the movie.  The mention of the author-photographer is obligatory: Gianni Fiorito.  Set of the new film by Paolo Sorrentino.  In the photo Celeste Dalla Porta.  and Stefania Sandrelli.. Photo by Gianni Fiorito This photograph is for editorial use only, copyright and the film company and the photograph is attributed to the film production company and may be reprinted alone by the publication at the same time as the promotion of the film.  .  It is obligatory for the author's mention: Gianni Fiorito.

They quickly take over the restaurant in question, holding the only people present hostage: Donahue’s waitress, named Charlotte, and a traveling knife salesman played by an unnamed Jim Cummings. Well, the only people there at the time. Travis and Beau needed a place to hide while they waited for the gas truck to arrive at the nearby gas station, so they could fill up and head to the 100 mile stretch of road that leads straight into the desert. But the gas truck doesn’t arrive. The opening credits show why. And after a long wait, other people also start streaming into the restaurant, also hoping to get gas and ignoring the hostage situation unfolding right in front of them.

Finally, the restaurant is relatively crowded. Particular highlights are Sierra McCormick as Sybil, a redhead who turns her nose up at the restaurant’s rhubarb pie, and Faizon Love as Vernon, the gas station owner. And Galluppi runs the hell out of every moment. There are aerial shots, low angle shots, at one point the camera is even fixed on the wing of the Pinto. What’s even more impressive is when he doesn’t strive for virtuosity and lets a wide shot simmer like a slow burn for two whole minutes as the camera slowly follows The Knife Salesman and Charlotte as he tells her that he thinks of Travis and Beau. are bank robbers and must come up with a plan to survive.

It’s a promising start, but the reality is that it’s a far greater feat in terms of directing than screenwriting, for which Galluppi also gets sole credit. He’s great at telegraphing small details about his characters through close-up reaction shots — and his actors are more than up for the challenge of conveying a ton of them, without significant expository dialogue. Donahue, a scream queen who gained the attention of horror fans for Ti West’s “The Devil’s House,” is particularly adept at conveying much of what she needs through just a glance and a change in posture. But everyone’s dialogue seems a little too pointed at times. Does Sybill really need to say categorically that The Knife Salesman looks like the “cross-dresser from “Psycho”? The vibe of Cummings’ Anthony Perkins is already very palpable to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of cinema. And the storyline itself is ultimately about moving them like pieces on a chessboard – placing them in the right position to achieve the most explosive effect. Because you know something big is going to happen.

And that’s the case. Less because it’s the most organic outcome for these characters, but because it’s the greatest spectacle this scenario allows. This is a bit unfair to several characters, who feel like they need a better story. There’s even a specific moment where you can identify “Oh, that went from a Tarantino riff to a Coen brothers riff,” right down to the hastily grabbed bag full of money. Not to mention Chekhov’s tanker introduced in the opening moments.

Galluppi is clearly good with actors, and he knows how to get the most out of a simple setup — the way he slows and speeds up the experience of time is particularly deft — but “The Last Stop in Yuma County” has many features. of a first film. It’s a showcase of its director’s skills and chosen obsessions, but with many notions feeling more like a tease than the full elaboration one might expect from a more experienced filmmaker. He’s directed music videos, and his equally dusty thriller short “High Desert Hell” won acclaim in 2019, but he still has a way to go as a filmmaker.

The ambition is there, though, and Galluppi’s ability to maximize the potential of a unique location and ensemble within it should lend itself well to the untitled “Evil Dead” film he’s attached to as his next project. After all, a roadside restaurant is usually just a place to stop for a while while passing through. Perhaps “The Last Stop in Yuma County” is just a stop on the road to an even more exciting cinematic destination to come.

Category B-

Well Go will release “The Last Stop in Yuma County” in theaters and on VOD on Friday, May 10.