The Last Stop in Yuma County

The Last Stop in Yuma County
The Last Stop in Yuma County
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There exists an unusual kind of movie which stops midway through it and the story we have been following suddenly takes a totally different turn or abruptly switches to other characters. This is best exemplified by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but horror films like Audition, One Cut of The Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Empty Man and Zach Cregger’s Barbarian are the most famous for this. And, do not forget Francis Galluppi’s debut feature film, the Western thriller that tastes so good called The Last Stop in Yuma County was finally released this week after success on festival circuit. His successes on the festival circuit made him be chosen as one of the directors for future Evil Dead installments.

The great filmmaker Jim Cummings (Thunder Road, The Beta Test) stars alongside the brilliant Jocelin Donahue (I Trapped the Devil, Doctor Sleep) and veteran actor Richard Brake (who also appeared in Barbarian). They all give excellent performances in this new film that is unpredictable while still being atmospheric and immensely enjoyable.

This starts off edgy with your Jim Cummings doing what he reliably does best—selling knives. You may think back on his character from Thunder Road or The Wolf of Snow Hollow to realize why you would guess a certain direction because of knowing that his character in “The Last Stop” is somebody who sells knives for a life (mind you, he is never named). It’s just one among many red herrings and clever deceptions found throughout this lovely little neo-Western that keeps us guessing till the end.

To some people 3:10 to Yuma comes into mind when they hear its title which was later remade starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Although Yuma County is set in Arizona too it depicts quasi-modernity; however everything speaks at once about deliciously retro as we watch a colorful group stroll into a cafe when their nearby gas station cuts out and waits for the delayed tanker to come.

The knife salesman (Cummings) walks into the diner, as well as a couple of obvious fugitives: the mute and terrifying Beau (Brake), and his younger, hot-tempered sidekick Travis (I Care a Lot standout, Nicholas Logan). Donahue gives an excellent performance throughout as she interacts with various personality types.

Faizon Love, who is a classic character actor known for Elf plays Vernon, the happy gas station owner appearing occasionally while Jocelin Donahue’s Charlotte runs the diner where everything happens. Meanwhile across town her husband Charlie whose name carries some redneck connotations (Michael Abbott Jr.) is actually sheriff in this small middle-America town. That is when he isn’t busy making life difficult for his good-natured deputy Gavin (Connor Paolo).

With all these strangers around leave it to a local – or rather Pete played by Jon Proudfoot – to come in and stir up trouble after Charlotte has already realized that her establishment happens to be feeding more than one criminal at this moment. Shootout starts happening and people are killed but more than anything else these moments are perfect examples of how tension can be so high that only such Tarantino-esque explosions of chaos will relieve it.

The dry humor is also in abundance, particularly from the sheriff who seems to be dumb but cannot put together that his wife is acting weird over the phone since she is trapped in a hostile diner while some unknown gunman hypothetically points a gun at her head. Anything can happen here, as few other minor characters drop by to add more complications as Beau and Travis, robbers of banks, realize that people are starting to identify them as those criminals who escaped after pulling off a heist somewhere else in the state.

Fans of Cummings’ charm and wit might be bummed during the middle chunk of the film, since his character is sidelined for the sake of other, perhaps more pressing plot points at work, but fret not: He has at least several moments to shine here. Yes, he’s just a star of the film and not working behind the camera in any way — but that’s A-OK. Writer-director Galluppi proves here he’s a future force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, even if the conclusion of this feature debut loses its steam, especially in comparison to the rest of the thrilling storyline.

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