Jonathan Demme’s take on the Hitchcock thriller is enjoyable enough and moves with a 90-minute swiftness. Roy Scheider is one of the best actors the 70s blessed us with and it’s fun to see him play a conflicted, cookie-cutter hero. Christopher Walken also shows up in a surprisingly minor role, but then again this is before he was Christopher Walken good and proper.
The film feels rather slight overall and there’s not a whole lot here to make a lasting impact. Demme’s technique is still forming and he hasn’t quite got to the point where he has enough of a distinctive style to heighten mere genre (like he does in, say, The Silence of Lambs). It’s a disposable movie, designed only to entertain within the 90 minutes it’s on screen and that in itself is admirable. It ends on a bummer which mainstream movies in the 70s were allowed to do and it has a real, fast-moving thriller plot which I’m always grateful for. The allusions to Hitchcock’s work are also welcome, most of the iconography from the Master of Suspense’s oevure (bell towers, grand halls, landmarks) is accounted for. Not as maximalist as a De Palma movie by any means, but Last Embrace does work as a respectful feature length homage.
A perfectly fine middle-of-the-road product but everyone involved has done far more memorable work before and since.