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May 10, 2024 / Well Go USA

Starring: Jim Cummings, Jocelin Donahue, Sierra McCormick, Nicholas Logan, Michael Abbott Jr., Connor Paolo, Alex Essoe, Robin Bartlett

Directed By: Francis Galluppi

While awaiting the next fuel truck at a middle-of-nowhere Arizona rest stop, a traveling young knife salesman is thrust into a high-stakes hostage situation by the arrival of two similarly stranded bank robbers with no qualms about using cruelty—or cold, hard steel—to protect their bloodstained, ill-begotten fortune.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 4 out of 5

The Last Stop in Yuma County is a tension filled boiler pot of dark humour, crime and isolation in this single location bound thriller from writer and director Francis Galluppi that is wildly entertaining and nerve wracking thanks to a great screenplay and talented cast led by a brilliant turn from Jim Cummings.

Films set in a single location can be tricky to pull off as there is physically nowhere for the story to go, putting the heavy lifting on the writing and cast to not only carry the film, but to build the rising tension to keep audiences engaged. It takes a talented writer and director to pull off such a story, and with Quentin Tarantino doing it excellently twice with both Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight, the bar has been set high for anyone trying to pull off a similar concept. Enter Francis Galluppi with his feature film debut as a writer and director. Under his talented leadership, not only does he create a tension filled ride that will have you on the edge of your seat in The Last Stop in Yuma County, but his talent explodes across the screen with the performances that he evokes from his cast and the way he visually tells the story, promising only great things to come from him in the future.

Locked within a single location, Galluppi builds a great story that ensures that The Last Stop in Yuma County is an exciting, riveting and shocking experience from start to finish. With the simple premise of waiting for a gas truck to refuel the local pumps so everyone can continue on with their day, the film finds an eclectic group of individuals locked in a diner with two criminals on the run. Some are aware of the situation, some are not, leading to nail biting moments throughout the film. The dialogue is razor sharp, letting the actors joust with each other and help build the tension of the story, while Galluppi’s dark sense of humour rings loud and clear throughout. And when the tension reaches a boiling point and you think the film is about to wrap up, there’s still tons of story left and where Galluppi takes it is dark, twisted and entertaining in the best way imaginable. While there is no doubt that audiences will walk into the film comparing it to a Tarantino flick, the story goes in a different and unique direction that delivers the goods at every turn that should quash any comparisons, allowing The Last Stop in Yuma County to stand on its own merits.

Working within the confines of a single location environment, where at least seventy percent of the film is locked within the diner next to the gas stop as our characters wait for the gas truck to refuel the pumps, Galluppi gets creative to keep the film moving and engaging. The camera movement through the diner helps to build rising tension, while the use of natural light and shadows emulates the dark and uncomfortable atmosphere the story is going for. Close up camera shots capture either the fear within the hostages of the diner knowing that they will be killed if they slip up, the naivety of those patrons in the diner unaware of what is actually happening, or the deadly intent of the two bank robbers constantly looking for their escape route. With the booths set around the edge of the diner and most of the characters spaced around its perimeter, it allows the dead space in the centre of the room to add tension until everything reaches a boiling point and the situation turns deadly in the film’s second half. It’s an excellent display of small scale filmmaking, with Galluppi, his cast and creative team using every trick in the book to create a riveting crime thriller that allows ninety minutes to zip by and have your eyes glued to the screen.

Jim Cummings. Learn the name, as he is one of the most talented individuals working in the industry today. Cummings shines as the unnamed knife salesman, perfectly capturing his character’s anxiety generated by the situation he finds himself in. He has the required down to earth charm that the role needs, that mixed in with his intelligent sense of comedy and great timing, allows the audience to experience Galluppi’s stressful story with a nail biting energy from his character’s point of view. Jocelin Donahue is excellent as Charlotte, the waitress working at the diner on the fateful day. She brings a tenacity and strength to the role that makes Charlotte a fierce opponent for the robbers, trying her best to outsmart them and get a message out for help, while having a delightful rapport with Cummings.

Richard Brake is down right terrifying as Beau, the lead bank robber and mastermind of holding the diner hostage as he figures out his escape plan, relying heavily on his deadly stare and choice words to build his character. It’s a commanding performance that leaves a lump in the back of your throat whenever he is on camera, which is perfectly counterbalanced by Nicholas Logan as his character’s young brother and accomplice Travis. Logan brings an obtuse and dimwitted comedic energy to the film as the bumbling yet trigger happy Travis, which helps fuel the dark humour laced throughout Galluppi’s screenplay. But it was Connor Paolo who kept stealing the film for me as Gavin, the rookie cop. Gavin was clueless to what was actually happening in the diner while picking up coffees, and Paolo plays it so well. Paolo has an infectious, youthful and joyful energy to him that perfectly cuts the tension, delivering some great comedic moments while also upping the danger for the characters and fear within the audiences as you can’t help but fear that he is going to screw everything up without knowing what he has done. All in all, it's a truly great ensemble cast with each actor giving a strong performance, but it is Cummings and Paolo who run away with the film.

This year has had a truly great run of directorial debuts, and the streak continues with Francis Galluppi in The Last Stop in Yuma County. From both a writing and directorial point of view, Galluppi perfectly navigates the confines of a single location story with a sharp screenplay that lets his talented cast run free as he continuously builds anxiety within both the audience and characters, and excellent camera work that utilizes every square inch of the film’s setting to create a visually enticing experience. Led by the terrific performance of Jim Cummings who perfectly embodies Francis Galluppi’s intelligent and dark writing and featuring a scene stealing turn from Connor Paolo, The Last Stop in Yuma County is a tour de force, nerve wracking and wickedly entertaining thriller that echoes some of Quentin Tarantino’s best work with an experience that does not let you catch your breath for a second!

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