FILM REVIEW: Last Man Club
By: Pamela Chan
April 12, 2016
“Sometimes in life, God hands us a rose.”
For Writer/Director Bo Brinkman, it took what seemed to be a lifetime to be handed that rose. From “busted financing, ailing actors and a lot of cancer,” the Texas native, though no stranger to the often times tumultuous journey of Hollywood movie-making, literally thought his upcoming film, “Last Man Club,” would never see the light of day.
Fortunately, God had other plans in mind, and after almost two decades from conception to total completion, Brinkman’s passion project has finally reached full bloom with the assistance of Pandolph Productions. This past Memorial Weekend, it was carefully handed over to audiences, serving as a clear reminder that veterans are, unfortunately, a disappearing generation who need to be more fully recognized; who need not be swept under the rug by a sometimes ungrateful country who often disregards the contributions made by men and women in uniform who were lucky enough to come home—like a bouquet of long forgotten roses, one might say.
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave," Elmer Davis, a news reporter and the former Director of the U.S. Office of War Information once said. Brinkman, the grandson of a WWI vet and the son of a WWII B-17 crew member, grew up with this in mind, and was inspired to bring to the screen the story of the last remaining members of a B-17 bomber crew with a brand-new type of road trip movie-- one that blends comedy and drama together in a cinematic-hybrid. One filled with laughs, tears, nostalgia, and a bunch of irresponsible old men who embark on one last adventure to help out one of their own who is struggling in a veteran’s hospital.
Starring James MacKrell (Golden Girls, The Twilight Zone, Teen Wolf) and Barry Corbin (Anger Management, One Tree Hill, No Country For Old Men) as John “Eagle” Pennell and Pete Williams, both Air Force veterans living on different sides of the country and nearing their sunset hours, ‘The Last Man Club” craftily blends the old with the new by inserting a dash of spunky modern zest with Romy (Kate French), a gorgeous young woman on the run who finds herself taking on the task of driving a group of petulant silver-
haired men from New Jersey to Texas so that they can honor a pact they made back in 1944 during their service of “thirty missions and a plane crash together,” as Eagle’s son (Michael Massee) puts it to federal officials attempting to catch the “senior citizens” in a wild cross country goose chase.
As the old saying goes, “Leave no man behind.” This could not be more vividly shown in Brinkman’s good-hearted and uplifting family film, which honors the bond, friendship, and brotherhood of men in war by bombarding them with a series of unexpected detours along the way down south. Much of the film takes place within the car, or the 1958 Ford Fairlane that belonged to Eagle’s late wife, and though there are some slight continuity errors throughout, as well as a bit of over delivery by various actors, Brinkman’s goal to celebrate the lives of American veterans does manage to come full circle in the end-- especially with some well-intentioned sarcasm aimed at Baby Boomers and all the generations that followed. “We fought for a country that no longer belongs to us. No, it belongs to them,” laments Eagle during one scene as he points to a pierced and tattooed adolescent in a passing car.
What’s important to remember is that while veterans are becoming a lost generation, often not receiving the care and support needed after war, they did once fight extremely hard for the freedom we maintain today-- such as making odd faces out the window of a moving vehicle in the middle of nowhere. The film succeeds in ever-so-subtly spelling that out for audiences of all ages, reminding us that “the willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude,” as Florida politician Jeff Miller once put it.
America may no longer ‘belong’ solely to those like Eagle, Williams, Will Hodges (William Morgan Sheppard), and Grady Reeds (Richard Riehle)—a.k.a. The Last Man Club—but heroes they shall remain. They continue to teach us important old world values such as what “a real man can be like,” or how to “never disgrace [one’s] wife,” and that though life doesn’t always turn out quite as expected, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Nothing is impossible if you have faith and an open heart,” Eagle tells Romy. For Brinkman it was an “incredible journey” to create what he calls "an homage to that generation." If you’re looking for love, laughs, and a plethora of life lessons, spend a memorable evening taking in this latest version of a ‘last ride type’ of film.’ It’s got an interesting little twist, is truly four-star worthy, and continues to melt hearts and souls throughout the entire county. Next up will be sunny Southern California: West Coasters should head on down to Burbank come September to see this gem screen as a “Festival Closing Feature Film.”
“Last Man Club” will close the Burbank International Film Festival on September 11, 2016 from 3:30pm-5:30pm. It will have an additional showing a few days prior at Krikorian Theater in the city of Monrovia at Action On Film: International Film Festival & Writer's Celebration on September 8, 2016 at 6pm.