The Last Sentinel (2007)

In the future, humanity has almost lost the war against the cyborg drone police that was originally created to fight the rampant crime rate in the US. One of the last survivors is Tallis, a genetically engineered supersoldier, who tries to survive in the ruins of the old civilization. One day, he rescues a rebel woman from a shootout with a drone police squad. They team up to fight the drone police, and to save what remains of humanity. Their goal is to infiltrate and destroy the central relay station that keeps the drones running.

“The Last Sentinel” is the second movie by director and writer Jesse Johnson. Packing an impressive list of A-list movies where he contributed as stuntman and stunt coordinator, every once in a while he seems to get the itch to make a movie of his own. And all movies he made so far have been thoroughly entertaining. This included the Last Sentinel, even though it may be one of his lesser achievements as a director.

The movie features B-action movie veteran Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame in the leading roles. Don Wilson’s acting is rather stiff, but as he plays a genetically engineered human that never learned anything about empathy and social interactions, it fits the role well. There’s not much to say about Katie Sackhoff’s character “the Girl”. Dallis starts to teach her some combat skills, rescues her a couple of times, and they develop a typical old man/young woman romantic relationship.

“The Last Sentinel” rips its premise rather shamelessly from movies like the Terminator and Soldier (the one from 1998 with Kurt Russell). The plot is very thin and the dialogues are slightly embarassing on occasion. Fortunately, there’s not a lot of talking going on. The majority of the film crew’s efforts went into the action sequences, and they are delivered almost non-stop.

One original aspect of the movie is that Tallis’ rifle possesses some sort of artifical intelligence and can talk. While the trope of a sentient weapon has been around for a while, this is the first time I’ve seen it receive so much attention in a movie. Kitchen-table psychology also suggests that this may be the manifestation of a male fantasy that melds women and weapons into one single obedient entity.

The majority of the movie plot takes place in an abandoned refinery, which provided a suitable and cost-efficient setting for the post-apocalyptic story. The shootouts and explosions are competently executed, only the hand-to-hand combat scenes are a bit lackluster. This may be disappointing for Don Wilson fans who expected to see their hero kick some cyborg ass. An exception is the showdown between Dallis and the leader of the Drone Police Elite which conveniently carries a Katana as weapon of choice. Tallis’s also got his hands on one, so we’re being treated with a nice sword fight.

There’s also a good amount of CGI blood in the movie, which was not that common to use in low-budget movies at that time. Even though action-movie purists may argue that no CGI should ever be used for blood effects, I believe it provides a budget alternative to the possibly more expensive use of theatrical blood and bullet wounds, at least if you want to make them look dynamic and have a lot of them.

Despite a flawed plot and script, The Last Sentinel is a highly entertaining piece of post-apocalyptic cinema. The movie showcases Jesse Johnson’s talent for choreographing good-looking action scenes on a limited budget, which he went on to refine in many of his later movies.

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