The Last Stop in Yuma County

THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY is a new indie crime movie from rookie writer/director Francis Galluppi. I’d seen some good reviews, the trailer looked intriguing and I read that Sam Raimi saw it and hired Galluppi for an EVIL DEAD movie. The coveted Necronominod. So it seemed like a good thing to check out as soon as it hit VOD last week.

It’s a single location movie, and the location is a diner out in the middle of nowhere, Arizona on a sunny day in the unspecified past, probly early ‘80s. A traveling cutlery salesman (Jim Cummings, THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW) pulls up at the gas station next door, the owner Vernon (Faizon Love, BEBE’S KIDS, who’s very good in this) explains that they’re all out of gas, but the fuel truck is supposed to arrive soon. Also there’s not another gas station for 100 miles, but you’re welcome to wait at the diner next door.

They’re actually not even open yet – he sees the waitress Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, DOCTOR SLEEP) get dropped off by her husband Charlie (Michael Abbott Jr., MUD, KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON), the sheriff. He goes in for some coffee, some conversation, and yesterday’s crossword to pass the time. Charlotte is very nice and accommodating, even though he’s kind of odd.

But it’s two other guys who show up that we gotta worry about, Beau (Richard Brake, MANDY, 3 FROM HELL, VESPER) and Travis (Nicholas Logan, SAMARITAN). The movie is very up front about the fact that these are indeed the armed and dangerous bank robbers we heard about on the radio – a good sense of awareness that they hired Richard Brake for the role, so they’re not fooling anyone. These two have not been able to ditch the green Pinto with the damaged rear end that they were spotted leaving in, and now they’re out of both gas and luck. But Travis insists nobody’s gonna recognize them, they might as well wait inside until that fuel truck arrives.

Brake is of course a cursed block of granite stolen from a madman’s grave and carved into a terrifying spectre of malevolence, as per usual. But I’m less familiar with the goofy sidekick Logan, and he’s great too. Travis is the burly redneck muscle, and there’s no question that he’ll hurt innocent people if he needs to to get away, but when he doesn’t see them as obstacles he can just be smiley and friendly and non-threatening. He can call Charlotte “darling” or whatever and sound like a nice guy, not a creep. But also he’s gross enough to wipe the sweat from his armpits with napkins and just toss them on the table.

Anyway, the salesman is sitting by the window, he sees their car, he sees that one of them looks like Richard Brake, he figures it out, and tries to inconspicuously warn Charlotte. But before she can call her husband Beau figures out what’s up and puts a gun on her. So now it plays out with these two knowing the bank robbers are here, and under threat of death if they tell anyone else who shows up, or are lying about anything (like that the salesman is out of gas too, that Charlotte got a ride to work, and that Vernon lives in the hotel and doesn’t own a car).

Things get more precarious as they have to maintain the charade with new arrivals including an older couple, Robert (Gene Jones, who I did not place as the gas station guy from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) and Earline (Robin Bartlett, DANGEROUS MINDS), a local named Pete (Jon Proudstar, FOUR SHEETS TO THE WIND, Reservation Dogs), and a young couple Miles (Ryan Masson) and Sybil (Sierra McCormick, SPOOKY BUDDIES, VFW), who aspire to be outlaws themselves.

My favorite supporting character is a deputy named Gavin (Connor Paolo, STAKE LAND I and II), who stops by to pick up coffee for the sheriff. This guy is so perfect, the babyfaced cop laying it on real thick to ingratiate himself to everyone he meets, asking all the diner patrons about themselves, making an announcement about the fuel truck, as if it’s his responsibility. He’s got this real youth pastor vibe, not in the molester way, but the well-meaning dweeb way. Laughable but not hate-able. It’s a recognizable type of person but a little different from the small town deputy archetypes we usually see.

This is a movie directed with some flair and some confidence, but not that ideal type of confidence that makes all the seams disappear until it feels like the movie could only ever exist in this form and anything else would be a mistake. The simplicity of the situation allows me room to ruminate too long on things like whether dumbass Miles would really have seen BADLANDS (1973), what the point is of implying that Robert and Earline’s grandson is David Koresh (!), and especially the pathetic operations of this diner. When asked if there’s a cook working Charlotte says “Not today,” but she doesn’t act like it’s unusual that she’s there all alone. When she opens the place she puts a pot of coffee on, there’s already one rhubarb pie (their trademark), and later she says the biscuits were “fresh baked yesterday.” Lucky for her the only things ordered during the movie are coffee and one order of biscuits and gravy. We don’t see if she cooks the gravy or not. But what if anybody ordered actual meals? She’d really go in the back and cook them up and keep popping out to wait tables? Is she ready for that?

Also the place doesn’t have a restroom (you have to go over to the gas station), the a/c is “on the fritz” until a part arrives tomorrow, and according to Sybil even the famous rhubarb pie is “not great.” I wondered if this was supposed to be a terrible diner or if the script just didn’t take into consideration that someone has to cook the food.

These are small concerns, of course. Tiny dings on the surface of a movie that knows how to entertain us even if it’s just a pleasing set of archetypes and crime movie circumstances we’ve seen a million times, maybe even in the same diner. (It’s a movie ranch set used in IDENTITY, TORQUE, INGRID GOES WEST, RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, REEKER, and HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES [though admittedly it looked very different when it was Captain Spaulding’s place]).

Fortunately, not long after I was thinking “this is fun, but nothing very original” the movie did suddenly slam on the gas and start driving more aggressively. When the thieves finally find a vehicle and make their move, it doesn’t go at all like they planned, a messy bloodbath erupts, and we switch to the disastrous consequences of one of these random bystanders getting the idea to run off with the loot. I really liked earlier how the people caught up in this had to keep repeating that they don’t care about the money, or turning them in. I mean, if it was you, you would just want to stay out of that and stay alive, right? But then it gets to a point where one of them realizes you know what, maybe I do care about the money.

Some reviews make THE LAST STOP IN YUMA COUNTY sound like the introduction of a bold new voice in cinema or some shit, like it’s the new BLOOD SIMPLE, and I think that’s overstating it. But it’s definitely an “I’ll check out what that guy does next” type situation, and of course a “yeah, I’d like to see that guy’s EVIL DEAD movie.”

A nice summation of Gallupin so far happens at the very beginning. The salesman finds out there’s no gas, so he parks over by the diner to wait, and turns on his car radio. Okay, the fact that the very first thing that comes on is a news report about the bank robbery, that’s awkward. You don’t put that first! You start out with a couple unrelated things, then you drop the important info. Come on, man.

But then he stops on a station playing a song, that sort of becomes the opening theme. I don’t know what it is, maybe from some other movie, but it’s retro and lush, kind of corny, kind of awesome, and it plays over footage of a fuel truck flipped sideways on the side of a road, parts still spinning and clicking, fuel dripping. I thought maybe it was gonna explode but no, it’s just there, and then we move back to the diner where people are gonna be waiting for the whole movie, talking about the hopefully imminent arrival of this truck that we know is for sure not coming. Gallupi could’ve withheld that information for suspense purposes, but I think he made the more interesting call. Show us how dire the situation is, and make a beautiful sequence out of it. Yeah, I can see why Sam Raimi liked this.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2024 at 7:08 am and is filed under Reviews, Crime, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “The Last Stop in Yuma County”

  1. This sounds up my alley. I can say that having spent time out in West Texas, the description of the diner actually sounds pretty authentic. Places to eat have weird hours, run out of food, don’t have restrooms inside the building, sometimes have one person basically doing everything. I’d say if anything was unrealistic, it would be that it would have that many people in the place at one time. But having not seen it, I could see how they may have layered on too many contrivances.

  2. Really really wanna see this. Psyched for Jim Cummings. Did Vern ever review his movies? He fascinates me. Like a combination of Bruce Campbell and Jim Carrey, but also he writes and directs!

  3. Yeah, but it reminds me of a joke Natasha Leggero told at the roast of James Franco: “Acting, writing, directing, producing, editing…is there anything you CAN do?”

    Granted, I’ve only seen Cummings’ annoying, self-indulgent werewolf movie, but it seems to me like he’s one of those guys who had to take on all of those jobs himself because nobody else would hire him for any of them. I was never going to love that movie but I would have liked it a lot more if not for his obnoxious performance. I came away thinking he might have a good movie in him somewhere if he ditches his leading man.

  4. @Mr Majestyk, untill you mentioned the self indulgent werewolf movie that made me google wolf of snow hollow, I spent a good chunk of this review thinking the traveling salesman was played by Whinnie the pooh’s voice actor and vern was just doing his usual ‘least popular movie credit’ gimmick and man that was a different movie I was picturing in my head

  5. I loved the annoying self-indulgent werewolf movie. One of my favorite films of 2020. Like an episode of Hannibal crossed with Letterkenny or Brockmire or something. I expected a dumb werewolf comedy and got something cleverer and more emotionally fulfilling. It put Cummings on my radar. I also dug THE BETA TEST.

    YUMA sounds fun. It’s weird that I am excited for movies in the vein of stuff I used to complain about, like 90s indie crime riffs or throwbacks to early-aughts superhero movies. Now it’s like an oasis in the desert.

  6. This sounds like an ideal Saturday/Sunday afternoon watch. Hopefully it’ll get a physical release so I can give it a try someday.

    But really, you had me at Jocelin Donahue, who I’ve loved since THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and who should really have more (and better) roles under her belt by now.

  7. Saw it and really liked it. As Vern said, it’s not the second coming of Blood Simple or anything, but it does the job and has a great twist and turn somewhere in the middle.
    Vern I think you should start writing just a little bit less of the plot on your reviews. Just my 2 cents. I tend to not even start the reviews of movies I haven’t seen and am thinking of seeing since many times you follow the plot point by point sometimes.

  8. Petros, I sincerely appreciate your two cents on that. I need a certain amount to explain what I like about the machinery of it or specific scenes but I have a terrible weakness for overdoing it. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me. (In some cases I’m writing it with an understanding that I want to analyze it with people who have already seen it, but this is not one of those cases.)

  9. “Brake is of course a cursed block of granite stolen from a madman’s grave and carved into a terrifying spectre of malevolence, as per usual.”
    Vern, you must have done an air fist pump when you wrote that. Maybe the best description of a character actor ever.

  10. Majesty’s, Beta Test by Cummings is worth checking out, but I agree he does seem to love himself and he is THAT close to making a really great movie.

  11. I’m such a huge Richard Brake fan. I watched the trailer and was immediately terrified.

  12. Peter Campbell

    May 19th, 2024 at 9:09 am

    This film is a lot of fun. Its not amazing but it works nice little tweaks on the genre, has a good story base from the start and gets more interesting character-wise as it goes, while always keeping an eye on the physical realities. Seems to be very influenced by early Spielberg, George Miller and early McTiernan

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