What would you do on the eve of the planet's destruction? That is the question posited by Abel Ferrara's "4:44 Last Day On Earth." The answer, it would seem, is to live it much like any other. I'm a fan of Ferrara as a filmmaker, I find him refreshingly unpredictable. I'm not sure, however, that "4:44 Last Day On Earth" conveyed and/or made the most of its intriguing premise. While I appreciate that not every apocalyptic endeavor has to be big, bold, and melodramatic--at times this felt so underplayed as to be virtually non-existent. While the concept and images advertising the movie may make it seem like a thriller (the word suspenseful is used in the description), this is a slow burn contemplation in which not much happens. Luckily, Ferrera had the wherewithal to cast Willem Dafoe as his central protagonist. Dafoe, as usual, makes for interesting viewing. This seems like an incredibly personal work for Ferrera and the intimacy that Dafoe brings to his performance is never less than fascinating.
The inconvenient truth of the situation is that Al Gore and his contemporaries were correct about their dire environmental predictions. Catastrophe, however, is way ahead of schedule and the end of the world has been pinpointed with precision. How? Don't ask. Despite the fact that it is supposedly the last day on earth (not everyone believes it, even though news broadcasts have ended due to the imminent game changer), nothing seems too drastically different in Dafoe's neighborhood. Traffic and pedestrians seem normal, stores and bars are open, you can order Chinese food. There is never a real sense of doom. Most of the movie is spent in one apartment with Dafoe and his girlfriend (Shanyn Leigh) dancing, using Skype, painting, making love, or just hanging out independently. Ferrera's point, perhaps, is that life goes on even if there isn't much of it left. While an interesting notion from an intellectual perspective, it doesn't necessarily make riveting entertainment.
I do give "4:44 Last Day On Earth" a marginal recommendation (mostly for the performances) for the arthouse crowd, I'm not sure the film will have a universal appeal. At a mere 82 minutes, I kept wishing 4:44 in the morning would arrive sooner. The film has a pleasing grittiness and rawness, and I appreciated the use of actual news footage (constantly playing in the background) to make the apocalypse seem tangible. Once again, don't think this is a thriller! It is a stagnant character piece with minimal dialogue. I'm not sure what I'd do on my last night on earth, I can only hope it would be more interesting than what is presented here. Ferrera's vision is filled with shopping, Chinese take-out, and karaoke. An interesting approach, to be sure, but not as compelling as I hoped. Watched it with a friend, he bailed at the 30 minute mark. KGHarris, 7/12.