Review by Joseph Fayed
When it comes to Westerns and Native Americans, films tend to fall under familiar tropes which more often than not can be perceived as offensive. It is a nice surprise to see a film such as The Last Manhunt revolve around a real person and with as much Native influence as possible behind the scenes. Unfortunately, this attempt to reshape the narrative around Willie Boy is too stagnant to tell the story it is meant to tell.
Willie Boy is a Chemehuevi long distance runner in love with Carlota. Carlota's father disapproves of their relationship. Willie Boy and Carlota try to run away, and when her father confronts them, Willie Boy accidentally shoots him. This results in the two being pursued by the local sheriff and his posse. In the chase through the Mojave desert that ensues, lives are forever altered.
While at surface level, it may seem that the story of Willie Boy may be interesting, the manhunt we see portrayed focuses on style more than substance. The cinematography is stunning and really captures the beauty of the Old West. Set against that gorgeous backdrop, feels like a half polished story. Willie Boy and Carlota are very quickly side tracked as, the film shifts most of its focus to the team behind the manhunt. The local sheriff, played by director Christian Camargo, stands out because he is the only one given any kind of backstory.
The brutality of the manhunt was touched upon throughout the film's runtime. It takes note of the films setting and provides us with some of the best moments in the film. How the elements effect the characters provides them the emotional backbone the dull script fails to provide them with. Jason Momoa received a story credit for this film and has a supporting role in it as well. But don't let any promotional posters fool you, his brief amount of screentime contributes nothing to the overall plot. The young man working at the local newspaper who follows the manhunt as part of a cover story he is working on added more of a thrill than any shoot out scene.
While certain elements of the story were specifically adapted for the screen such as Willie Boy and Carlota's ultimate fates, the forces behind this film failed to make an interesting Western thriller based on a real, interesting person. Despite the appearances of several talented actors, their performances are wasted by lackluster dialogue and action you have seen in many previous Westerns. The Last Manhunt is a different take on the life and manhunt of Willie Boy that dries up under the Mojave sun.
The Last Manhunt is now available on VOD.