Despite the filmmakers’claims that “Last Man Running” is supposed to be “a seamless and simultaneous overlay of both narrative and documentary,” the resulting strained comedy appears more concocted than not. Cooked up by helmer Damon Santostefano and actor pal Rick Gomez to depict the months preceding Gomez’ actual wedding, vanity project has Gomez busting up his body in a string of demolition derby contests. Vid and cable circuits appear the most viable spots for this not-so-cheery vehicle to land.
In a leap of madness just before wedlock, Richie (Rick Gomez) explains in voiceover that he plans to fulfill his lifelong fantasy of competing in a demolition derby, and it doesn’t seem to matter what his fiance Jenny (Jenifer Wymore-Gomez, Rick’s actual wife) thinks. In his own condescending manner, which has the effect of turning viewers off Richie before they even know him, he notes that Jenny “accepts my passion, but I’m not sure she fully grasps it.”
After watching what Richie puts himself through, many viewers will commiserate with Jenny, or wonder if she really knows who she’s marrying. Pic’s most amusing gambit is to parallel her wedding prep — all lace, dress fittings and coffee klatches with girlfriends — with Richie’s absurd devising with bumble-headed brother J.J. (Josh Gomez, Rick’s actual brother) to get a car for the derbies at a legendary Long Island stadium, recruiting the help of champ driver Bob “Whiplash” Genovese (oddly uncredited on screen).
The line between Richie and the real Rick does blur at points. But the overall course of Richie’s impossible dream being fulfilled feels like a stock movie character who triumphs despite his talent for screwing everything up, rather than a spontaneous comic creation caught by chance on camera. What feels more real in the end is Jenny splitting for L.A. to rethink their plans.
The uneasy line between fiction and docu isn’t handled very well by either of the Gomezes, who mug for the camera too much. More seriously, the coy game played here with the viewer about what’s real and what’s fiction ultimately grows as tiresome as Richie and J.J. themselves.
An energetic cinematic panoply of color and B&W images gives “Last Man Running” some modest Oliver Stone-like visual flourishes, and the raw footage in the derby arena — impressively covered by multiple cameras inside and outside several rampaging cars — is unmistakably the real deal.