Last Day of Summer promises what it has no intention of delivering, teasing the possibility of cathartic violence as well as an introspective inquiry into an angry loner’s psyche, yet settling for tension-free hostage drama and dreary humor. Pushed to the edge by past high school embarrassments and the constant toilet-cleaning humiliations of his fast-food boss (William Sadler), scrawny Joe (DJ Qualls) buys a pistol and video camera in preparation for a burger-joint killing spree orchestrated to teach “them” that he’s “a soldier of my own destiny.” However, when his massacre falls apart and he instead winds up kidnapping customer Stefanie (Nikki Reed) as punishment for not wanting to talk to him, Joe discovers—through mildly abusive behavior, pot smoking, and heart-to-hearts with his similarly unhappy captive—that murder might not be the answer. With enervating consistency, writer/director Vlad Yudin imparts only clichéd insights into his protagonist’s trite malaise. And just as Joe’s trigger-happy fantasies provide the bloodshed that the film isn’t prepared to grapple with in real life, the material’s unhinged fury proves a put-on, since the cowardly Joe is clearly too sensitive to enact his self-destructive plans, and Qualls never convincingly sells the character’s rage.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 15, 2010