Last Supper, The (1995): Stacy Title’s Socially Relevant Satire, Starring Ron Perlman and Bill Paxton

Toronto Film Fest, Sept. 10, 1995–The Last Supper, a socially relevant satire that takes as its target the entire political spectrum, heralds the arrival of director Stacy Title as a bright new talent on the American indie scene.

Though marred by structural flaws and a rather schematic narrative, this bang-up film of ideas, which features a terrific cast of young actors, should appeal to sophisticated viewers who seek provocative, non-mainstream entertainment.

It’s so rare now-a-days to see an indie that is not Tarantino-like or neo-noir that The Last Supper, a low-budgeter that “came out of nowhere,” is bound to surprise audiences with its absorbingly pungent yarn about Right and Left–and Right and Wrong–in contemporary American politics. Inevitable comparisons will be made with Shallow Grave, the British pic about greed and friendship, due to some thematic resemblance. However, grounded in a specifically American context, The Last Supper should touch a more responsive chord with audiences than the l994 release.

In a brilliant opening sequence, five graduate students engage in a lively discussion with Zac (Bill Paxton), a stranger who gave a ride to one of them during a rainstorm. It’s the quintet’s ceremonial entertainment: Every Sunday they invite one guest of honor for an exchange of ideas. The proceedings heat up when the ultra-patriot right-winger voices his racist views–colored people are quick-tempered; the Jews stole money from the Germans, and so on. Zac begins a physical fight, which unexpectedly ends with his own death at the hands of Marc (Jonathan Penner), the Jewish member, to the utmost shock of his peers.

However, once initial dismay and apprehension pass, the quintet decides to embark upon a crusade “to make the world a better place to live,” ridding society of its most deplorable enemies. More guests lead to more killings–and more backyard burials–all to the benefit of the garden, which begins to blossom with delicious tomatoes.

The Last Supper aims at being at once a black comedy, a la Arsenic and Old Lace, and a political critique of the l990s, but ultimately it’s too ambitious for its own good. After the first reel, the narrative becomes progressively schematic–and a bit tiresome. Further cutting should benefit the suspense level; there are too many victims, each standing for another despicable cause. The last sequence, in which the group entertains conservative TV commentator (Ron Perlman) is stretched way beyond its necessary length. And while the film offers a snappy resolution, you wish writer Dan Rosen would take a firmer ideological stance.

That said, there are so many passages where the discussion is lively, the humor snappy, and the sentiment affecting that the flaws become less apparent. Gifted director Title is adept at creating genuine suspense, which is entirely sustained through lively dialogue, with little gore or gruesome violence. Pic’s most distinctive qualities are the varying rhythms of its conversations, which are satirical yet also intimately engaging. Helmer is also proficient in providing comic relief from the drama’s more intense moments.

Director Title has amassed a terrific cast of actors, who work extremely well as an ensemble. And the guests are played by eccentric performers, all hitting their marks in due course, including brilliant turns by Bill Paxton, Charles Durning, and Ron Perlman. Considering that the movie was made for only half a million dollars, its technical credits are superb, with particularly impressive imagery by lenser Paul Cameron and eerie music by composer Mark Mothersbaugh.


Pete………..Ron Eldard

Paulie……Annabeth Gish

Marc……Jonathan Penner

Luke….Courtney B. Vance

The Guests: Jason Alexander, Charles Durning, Bryn Erin, Nora Dunn, Mark Harmon, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman.