4:44 Last Day on Earth ✮✮
… But Will There be Chinese Takeout?
by Glenn Lovell
It’s a popular parlor game. If you knew the end was nigh, how would you spend your last few hours? At the high-stakes table in Vegas? Looting your favorite high-end retailer? Skydiving or doing some other extreme sport?
The couple in Abel Ferrara’s “4:44 Last Day on Earth” hunker down in their New York City loft and, apart from some spicy slow-dissolve sex, proceed to bore themselves, and us, to death. Oh, I almost forgot. As the last of the ozone layer burns off, Cisco, played by Willem Dafoe, also lathers up and shaves. “Why even bother?” Skye, played by Shanyn Leigh, asks
Despite its timely comment on the ever-increasing evidence of global warming, Ferrara latest is a stagy, pretentious letdown. It’s certainly the last thing we’d expect from the aging enfant terrible behind “Ms. 45,” “Bad Lieutenant” and “King of New York.” Say what you will about Ferrara, his films weren’t boring. Deranged, yes. Playfully anarchic, maybe. But never boring.
The zero-budget “Last Day on Earth,” which will never be confused with “Zombieland” or “28 Days Later” or, for that matter, “Melancholia,” comes off as a somber testimonial/warning commissioned by a liberal think tank overseen by Al Gore, who puts in an appearance on one of the loft’s numerous TV screens. As the clock ticks down to The End, which we’re told will be “sudden and total,” Cisco, an actor, plays air-guitar to the Stones, bellows across the courtyard at his neighbors and Skypes with his daughter and ex-wife. Meanwhile, Skye, an artist, busies herself with her latest splatter painting that, mercifully, will never see the light of day.
“Last Day” is at once improvisational and didactic. Dafoe talks back to the wide-screen images of Michael Roach and the Dalai Lama and mutters to himself, “How can you not think of the end? … Where are the experts?” The blackness to come, we’re told by a newscaster about to vacate his desk, is the result of “an ever-weakening ozone layer that (has) thinned and dissipated far more rapidly that the worst doomsayer could have imagined.”
We’re not contesting the importance of this film’s message, only the means of putting that message across. Sure there are flashes of the old Ferrara, such as a neighbor who matter-of-factly leaps to his death and a fight between Skye and Cisco as Cisco’s ex laughs maniacally via Skype. But, overall, as the lovebirds surrender to their fate ‒ which turns out to be a green-tinted dust storm with superimposed riots and religious icons ‒ we can’t escape the feeling that this barely feature-length release is the work of someone biding his time between more tantalizing projects.
4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH ✮✮ With Willem Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh. Directed, written by Abel Ferrara. 85 min. Unrated (would be R for nudity, language)