You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Last Days of Frankie the Fly

Just when you thought the "Tarantino effect" was over and the subgenre centered on dumb lowlife criminals was exhausted by the indies, along comes Peter Markle's "The Last Days of Frankie the Fly," a derivative, often senseless movie set in L.A.'s sleazy underworld.

Frankie - Dennis Hopper Margaret - Daryl Hannah Sal - Michael Madsen Joey - Kiefer Sutherland Vic - Dayton Callie

Just when you thought the “Tarantino effect” was over and the subgenre centered on dumb lowlife criminals was exhausted by the indies, along comes Peter Markle’s “The Last Days of Frankie the Fly,” a derivative, often senseless movie set in L.A.’s sleazy underworld. High-visibility cast, toplined by cast-against-type Dennis Hopper, elevates the film a notch above the routine crimer, but it’s doubtful that a major distributor would take a risk on a picture that’s basically plotless and vastly uneven in execution.

Tyro scripter Dayton Callie, who’s an established actor and playwright, sets his small story in a familiarly seedy milieu. Most of the characters are bitter and down on their luck. Central character, a “little man” who gets to fulfill his fantasy of revenge and redemption, is an antihero lifted from “Marty.” Frankie (Hopper) is an older nebbish, shy and insecure with women, who’s humiliatingly nicknamed Fly. All his life he’s been pushed around, to the point where his chief goal is to gain respectability, to “be somebody,” like Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront,” and countless other ’50s screen heroes.

A leg man for the mob, Frankie submissively works for the creepy Sal (Michael Madsen) and his vicious sidekick, Vic (writer Callie). On the set of a porn movie, directed by Joey (Kiefer Sutherland), a pretentious NYU film school graduate, Frankie is instantly smitten with sexy star Margaret (Daryl Hannah), a former junkie whose main ambition is to become a serious actress. Basically a “good girl,” she came to L.A. to pursue a legit acting career, but tough circumstances dragged her into drugs and prostitution.

Joey meanwhile, has a gluttonous appetite for the racetrack, despite the fact that he owes huge amounts of money to Sal. Forbidden to gamble himself, he asks Frankie to do the job for him.

It’s a measure of the picture’s secondhand, movieish plot that not only does Margaret talk about her admiration of Jodie Foster, but scripter Callie borrows quite a bit from the roles Foster and Robert De Niro played in “Taxi Driver.”

Frankie becomes obsessed with salvaging Margaret from the corrupt clutches of Sal, a staple character in indie crime movies of the last decade.

Almost every sequence in “Last Days” recalls a better movie. When Sal finds out that Joey has double-crossed him, he tortures him and blinds him with a knife in a brutal scene that’s a wretched replay of “Reservoir Dogs.” The desert climax is preposterously written, defying credibility. Same can be said about the “uplifting” finale, in which Frankie fulfills his dream of scripting and directing a movie — a subplot inspired by “Get Shorty,” albeit without the latter’s droll wit or dark humor.

The movie is not poorly directed, but first part is badly structured, consisting of set pieces that are meant to impress rather than involve. Hopper gives a remarkably full-bodied performance that makes the material more engaging than it has a right to be. Rest of the cast is decent, though Sutherland overacts unpleasantly.

Good production values, particularly Phil Parmet’s expert lensing, James Newport’s dependable production design and George S. Clinton’s moody music, make the familiar tale more enjoyable.

The Last Days of Frankie the Fly

Production: A Nu Image presentation in association with Phoenician Films and Blueline Prods. of an Elie Samaha production. Produced by Elie Samaha. Executive producers, Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson. Directed by Peter Markle. Screenplay, Dayton Callie.

Crew: Camera (CFI color), Phil Parmet; editor, David Campling; supervising editor, Stephen Rivkin; music, George S. Clinton; production design, James Newport; costume design, Judy Truchan; line producer, Tom Wright. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, March 15, 1997. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Frankie - Dennis Hopper Margaret - Daryl Hannah Sal - Michael Madsen Joey - Kiefer Sutherland Vic - Dayton Callie

More Film

  • Nadine Labaki

    Cannes: Nadine Labaki to Head Un Certain Regard Jury

    Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has been named president of the jury for Un Certain Regard in Cannes. The Festival said Labaki had been chosen after “moving hearts and minds at the last Festival de Cannes with her Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Capernaum,’ which won the Jury Prize.” More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content