×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Last Ride

Bearing all the hallmarks of a small-budget labor of love, "The Last Ride" is a leisurely paced but modestly engaging road trip that gets considerable mileage from the byplay between its two lead characters.

With:
With: Henry Thomas, Jesse James, Fred Dalton Thompson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ray McKinnon, James Hampton, Rick Dial, Kaley Cuoco.

Bearing all the hallmarks of a small-budget labor of love, “The Last Ride” is a leisurely paced but modestly engaging road trip that gets considerable mileage from the byplay between its two lead characters: country-music great Hank Williams, persuasively played by Henry Thomas as a feisty reprobate ravaged by illness and self-indulgence, and small-town naif Silas (Jesse James), who’s hired as driver for the ailing superstar during the final days of 1952. Pic doubtless will sell more soundtrack CDs than firstrun admission tickets, but could connect with Williams devotees as homevid fare.

Given the portentous title, even viewers unfamiliar with the real-life events that inspired the fictionalized script by Howie Klausner and Dub Cornett will know from the start where this indie drama is going and what will happen when it gets there. (An opening onscreen title notes: “Most of what follows is true.”) Still, helmer Harry Thomason is able to sustain interest in the predictable scenario by focusing on the slowly evolving relationship between mismatched traveling companions.

Popular on Variety

As Williams (who identifies himself throughout the pic only by aliases “Luke” or “Mr. Wells”), Thomas shrewdly underplays a part that easily could have brought out the hambone in a lesser thesp. Ashen-faced, unsteady of step and given to violent coughing fits, he comes across as a battered wreck who’s ambulatory only through sheer force of will. At the same time, however, Thomas conveys enough vigorous sass and intimidating authority to make it clear that, even if Williams is going to hell in a hand basket — or, to be more specific, a powder-blue Cadillac Eldorado — he’ll damn sure set the course and enjoy the trip. (It should be noted that the real Hank Williams was 29 at the time the pic takes place but, by all reports, looked even older than Thomas does here.)

Silas, an unhappily employed mechanic, impulsively pounces on the job opportunity when a stranger (Ray McKinnon) offers cash to anyone willing to drive “Mr. Wells” from Montgomery, Ala., to stops in West Virginia and Ohio. Trouble is, Silas, who doesn’t know his passenger’s true identity, is almost laughably ill equipped to fulfill another requirement of the job. Charged with keeping Wells clean and sober, he can only look on helplessly as the fading hellraiser seizes every opportunity to imbibe.

Despite the presence of McKinnon and other supporting players — most notably, Fred Dalton Thompson as Williams’ stressed manager and Kaley Cuoco as Silas’ fleeting romantic interest — “The Last Ride” is, for all practical purposes, a two-hander. Thomas is unquestionably the star of the piece, but James is more than adequate as the callow but good-hearted foil who slowly gains Williams’ respect and friendship.

Production values suggest the filmmakers had ready access to period-appropriate props, costumes and locations (the pic was shot entirely in Arkansas) but lacked a budget for anything more than rudimentary special effects. Thomas isn’t called upon to sing, and there are no Hank Williams recordings on the soundtrack. But other artists — including Jett Williams, Hank’s daughter — can be heard singing Williams compositions, and Johnny Cash’s rendition of “The Night Hank Williams Came to Town” is effectively employed during the closing credits.

The Last Ride

Production: A Category One release of a Live Bait Entertainment and Mozark Films production. Produced by Dub Cornett, Douglas G. Jackson, Benjy Gaither. Executive producers, Tim Jackson, Rodney Stone, Harry Thomason, Benjamin Gaither. Co-producers, Charlie Dicus, Chad O'Connor, James Castle, Dwight Jackson. Directed by Harry Thomason. Screenplay, Howie Klausner, Dub Cornett.

Crew: Camera (color), Jim Roberson; editor, Leo Papin; music, Benjy Gaither; production designer, Dwight Jackson; set decorators, Traci Kirschbaum, Mel Cooper; costume designer, Doug Hall; sound (Dolby Digital), Dick Hansen; associate producer, Hall; assistant director, Linda Rockstroh; casting, Fran Bascom. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, June 12, 2012. (In 2011 Nashville Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Henry Thomas, Jesse James, Fred Dalton Thompson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Ray McKinnon, James Hampton, Rick Dial, Kaley Cuoco.

More Film

  • Lily James

    Lily James Delivers Masterclass in Charm in Macao

    British actor, Lily James delivered a masterclass in charm and good humor at a seminar on Sunday at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. Questioned on stage by one of the festival’s senior programmers, James brightly chatted her way through eight years of a screen career that has taken her from “Downton Abbey” to [...]

  • Avengers Endgame Lion King Frozen 2

    Disney Crushes Own Global Box Office Record With Historic $10 Billion

    Thanks to a record number of billion-dollar blockbusters, Disney has become the first studio in history to surpass $10 billion at the worldwide box office. Through Sunday, the studio has generated $3.28 billion in North America and $6.7 billion overseas for a global haul of $9.997 billion and is expected to officially cross the benchmark [...]

  • Takashi Miike

    Miike Takashi's Unusual Takes on Feminism and China

    Takashi Miike chuckles when you ask him if he’d called himself a feminist. “Maybe I’m not exactly, because when I use the word as a man, it feels like it might be condescending, or anti-woman,” he told Variety on the sidelines of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao, where his latest feature, the high-octane [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    Box Office: 'Frozen 2' Remains Victorious, 'Playmobil' Bombs

    “Frozen 2” dominated box office charts for the third weekend in a row as Disney’s animated sequel scored another $34.7 million in North America. Those ticket sales, a 60% decline from its massive Thanksgiving haul, boost its domestic tally to $337 million. “Frozen 2” earned $130 million in its inaugural outing and another $123 million [...]

  • Macao Project Market Participants

    ‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

    Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao. “Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, [...]

  • International Film Festival and Awards Macao

    Macao Industry Debate: Streaming Not Done Reshaping Indie Film Business

    New viewing habits brought on by the rise of streaming have hastened the demise of the mid-budget American indie, changed the very definition of arthouse cinema, and shaken the indie distribution business. But theatrical is still here to stay, attendees of the Macao International Film Festival’s closed-door industry panels concluded Saturday. Panelists gathered to discuss [...]

  • Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly

    Arab and African Filmmakers Are Increasingly Focusing on Genre Films and Series

    2019 has been an excellent year for films from Africa and the Middle East, with a higher presence in A-list festivals, and kudos for films such as Mati Diop’s “Atlantics,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. The “new wave” of Arab and African cinema includes a small group of films that explore links with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content