There's a reason they call the place Sin City.
Oh, it's not so much the sins themselves that make Las Vegas unique. Those can be found everywhere. It's the signage—the number of billboards, lights and flyers that point right to them, tempting you 24/7 on every street corner and on the floor of every casino. It's all so beguiling, in fact, that some weekend visitors make it a point to never sleep while in town. And that kind of nonstop sin saturation can turn you old in a hurry.
But what happens if you're already—well, old?
The Flatbush Four, as they call themselves, are about to find out. They're in town to get Billy, the group's charismatic schmoozer since childhood, hitched. He's turning 70, but he's never been married—and that makes sense when you see his coppery skin, silk shirts and mostly hidden insecurity. You'd peg him as a serial husband or a lifelong bachelor—too caught up in carpe diem to ever think about long-term happiness. Perhaps it's not too surprising that Billy popped the question to his thirtysomething girlfriend during a funeral.
Paddy never had trouble with commitment. He's a widower now—still grieving over wife Sophie who passed away a year ago. Paddy asked Billy—his best friend since the 1950s—to do the eulogy. Billy sent flowers instead. "Sorry for your loss," the card read. Paddy hasn't forgiven the slight, and he wouldn't even be in Vegas at all had not Archie and Sam conned him into coming.
Archie has a son who dotes on him—perhaps a little too much. The older man had a stroke not long ago, and the younger man, Ezra, doesn't want his dad to suffer another "episode." So he keeps tabs on Archie like a prison warden. But that's not keepin' old Arch away from all those bright lights. He leaves a note saying he's gone to a church retreat and jumps right out his bedroom window.
And Sam? He's still happily married. But his wife has noticed that he's been listless for a while, and she's determined to help him climb out of it … by handing him a card bearing a condom and a little blue pill. "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," the card reads. Do whatever you have to do to bring back the old Sam, she tells him. But I don't want to hear about it.
Everybody in this old-timey quartet is on a quest for one last wild romp—to remind themselves that they're still alive, still relevant and still functioning. Vegas isn't a place for soul-searching, after all. It's a place for hedonism! Revelry! Round-the-clock partying! It's time for—
Well, maybe for these guys, it's time for a nap.
Last Vegas is a little like The Hangover with senior citizen discounts—a movie filled with questionable content and some fairly dicey decisions. But by the time these guys' weekend wingding is done, at least a little positive stuff has taken place.
First, let's start with the obvious: the lifelong friendship that the four share. They kid each other relentlessly, but they obviously care deeply for one another—even if their bonds are strained at times. They would do, it seems, almost anything for one another. (And we see that confirmed by movie's end.)
[Spoiler Warning] Turns out, Billy didn't stay a bachelor because he was shallow or flighty. He did fall in love once—with Paddy's eventual wife, Sophie. In fact, it could've been Billy and Sophie all those years, but Billy knew that Paddy and Sophie were meant for each other. And the movie suggests that Billy gave up his own best shot at happiness for his best friend. When history repeats itself in Vegas—both fall for a lovely woman named Diana—Paddy, in his own way, turns the tables and gives Billy a chance at real love (and with a woman closer to his own age).
In the end, Billy comes to terms with getting older, Paddy finds the will to move past Sophie's death, Archie comes to a better understanding with his son, and Sam realizes he doesn't need to have sex with a younger woman to feel more alive.
When Ezra calls his dad to see how the "church retreat" is going and hears some shouting in the casino, Archie lies, telling him that the Holy Spirit is alive and well there. To help out, Sam hollers phrases he assumes would be heard at a revival (including a loud rendition of Psalm 23), and Archie tells Ezra he'll have to hang up because he thinks "the Holy Spirit is going to leave the room," and he needs to chase it.
Billy's wedding is expected to take place in a churchy casino chapel.
"Are you good in bed, Sam?" a torch singer asks.
"I don't remember," he answers.
But there's no forgetting for audiences that Last Vegas is a very sexually oriented film. And it's Sam, given his quest to cheat on his wife, who is the primary focal point.
With the first couple of women he meets in Vegas, he starts his conversations by saying his wife has given him permission to cheat. And while making small talk with a Vegas performer, he discovers (once he puts his glasses on) that he's been chatting up a transvestite. He becomes friends with the guy (who we learn is married), and he's introduced to several of his cross-dressing associates.
[Spoiler Warning] Sam also strikes up a friendship with a young woman who says he reminds her of her grandfather. But then she leads him into a bedroom with a circular, rotating bed. She takes off her dress (we see her from behind in her panties) and asks Sam if he wants to have sex with her. Well. Sam admits that it'd be fantastic to do that with her … but then he says that when something wonderful happens, "the first thing I want to do is tell my wife about it." So she puts her clothes back on and tells him, "I really hope to marry a guy like you one day." (As she leaves, Sam jokes that oral sex wouldn't be out of the question.) We later see Sam and his wife in bed together.
Women dress in tight, revealing outfits (and are constantly ogled by the Flatbush Four). At least one woman reveals her underwear. The friends become judges for a bikini contest—and the bikinis are extraordinarily skimpy. The male emcee rips off his pants and thrusts his speedo-covered privates in Paddy's face to get a laugh. Billy's bachelor party features an ice sculpture in the shape of a woman's nude torso: Vodka pours out of the sculpture's nipples.
The guys frequently reference various private body parts. Jokes are made about Viagra-like drugs and the size of certain organs. We see glimpses of cards advertising escorts; Sam takes a handful.
In an effort to protect his friends, Paddy hits two people in the face. The second time, he seems proud of the cut knuckle he gets. His victim—a young punk named Dean—suffers a cut nose. And the four friends trump up some mafia associations, threatening Dean harm if he doesn't do small chores for them. Billy's fiancée slaps him.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word, about 10 s-words and a Vegas buffet full of vulgarities, including "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch," "b‑‑tard," "h‑‑‑," "d--k," and "schmuck." For decades, the four have called one another "p‑‑ck" and "a‑‑hole," and Billy magnanimously hands around cufflinks inscribed with those words. Jesus' name is abused two or three times, as is God's (with "d--n").
Drug and Alcohol Content
Pretty much everyone onscreen drinks to excess, downing beer, wine and hard liquor. The guys share an old bottle of scotch they stole when they were kids. They pour alcohol directly into the mouths of some of their bachelor party guests. Archie guzzles Red Bull and vodka together. ("I feel like I'm getting drunk and electrocuted at the same time," he says.) Sam and Archie eventually pass out, with Archie later complaining that he's not been that hung over in 30 years.
When a girl asks the men if they have drugs, Sam asks, "Does Lipitor count?"
Other Negative Elements
Archie plops down $15,000 at a blackjack table and grows it to $102,000—something of a rarity in Vegas. Others gamble as well.
The men gab about urination and hemorrhoids.
The main attraction of this early-November flick with these early-November actors is, obviously, the cast. Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline have all won Academy Awards and share 14 Oscar noms among them.
But those who go to Last Vegas expecting some acting tour de force performances will walk away disappointed. Last Vegas is a watchable if not terribly compelling movie that serves as something of a 105-minute commercial for Las Vegas and, particularly, the Aria Resort & Casino. I don't know how much the Aria paid CBS Films to be a "partner," but it had to be a fair bit more than Archie wins at blackjack.
Maybe a lot more, because Las Vegas here looks exactly the way it'd like to look—a land of gorgeous people, beautiful weather and outrageous excess. We're given an eyeful of juicy steaks, winning gambling runs, glamorous nightclubs and cool celebrities, too. No homeless people. No glassy-eyed slot players sticking quarter after quarter into one-armed bandits. All the frenetic fun we're shown here is posited as a no-risk proposition: Blackjack is easy money! Hangovers vanish after a quick cutscene!
Even the stories of these four lifelong friends is more touching than you might expect. Because when the weekend's over, the money's been spent and all the drinks have splashed down, these guys still have what they've always had: one another. That'll be a constant as long as they live, whether they spend their next get-together on the beaches of Rio or at a Cracker Barrel in Des Moines.
But that doesn't do much to keep Last Vegas from being a fantasy as ludicrous in its own way as Iron Man 3, only more insidious. Everyone knows, after all, that metal suits can't make someone fly, no matter how high-tech they are. Not everyone knows that $102,000 winners in Vegas are as rare as a gold-titanium alloy.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Michael Douglas as Billy; Robert De Niro as Paddy; Morgan Freeman as Archie; Kevin Kline as Sam; Mary Steenburgen as Diana; Jerry Ferrara as Dean; Romany Malco as Lonnie; Michael Ealy as Ezra
Jon Turteltaub (The Sorcerer's Apprentice, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, National Treasure, The Kid, Instinct)
November 1, 2013
Paul Asay Paul Asay