DVD Review - The Last Fall

Lance Gross in "The Last Fall"
According to IMDB, Matthew A. Cherry is a former NFL wide receiver. He played for several teams, including the Baltimore Ravens, but eventually got cut. He graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in radio/TV and media. He was able to work as a production assistant on various commercials and programs, including the NFL-related series The Game, formerly on the CW but now on BET, eventually working his way up to consulting producer. He was assistant director for a half-dozen or so music videos for popular R&B and rap artists. His first time as director was for the short film This Time (2010), but, in terms of feature-length films, The Last Fall is Cherry's debut. The film premiered at the SXSW Festival. It went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the American Black Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Independent Film at the Black Reel Awards.

Lance Gross (House of Payne and Steel Magnolias) stars as Kyle Bishop, a NFL player who gets cut from his team and is told by his agent that no other team wants him. Because not all football players are multi-millionaires or have tons of endorsement deals and because some only get five-figure salaries with no benefits, when Kyle gets cut and has no prospects, he is left in a poor and pathetic position.

Cherry opens the film with an alarming statistic. 78 percent of all professional football players are divorced, bankrupt or unemployed two years after leaving the game. Cherry was inspired to explore this statistic in the wake of the NFL lockout in 2011. He saw people had this idea about players, a stereotype that all players are living large, a stereotype that is mostly wrong, so he wanted to show the other side. He wanted to show that not all players are living large. Some players have to struggle, but the question is who's fault is that?

Cherry himself was cut, but he had a good degree and he was able to apply that degree. Cherry himself was even able to apply that degree to the film industry, a tough industry to break. Kyle doesn't seem to have a degree, an education or a skill that he can then use in light of his football career going away. Cherry didn't seem to be as big of a star as Kyle is, so the realization that the football career may not be as long and great as he might hope came to Cherry quicker than it comes to Kyle who seems completely dumbstruck.

Even though Cherry doesn't hammer home this idea, the importance of African-American men getting an education or learning a trade is vital. Kyle reiterates the sentiments of many African-American men who pursue careers in sports. The sentiments are not really that of loving the game but that of needing a way out of the hood or out of poverty that results in a lot of cash quickly and what some might think easily.

Obviously, a lot of young men use sports to pay for college, but for those who are recruited out of high school or before finishing a graduate degree, let The Last Fall be a cautionary tale. Yet, Cherry is clearly a romantic at heart, and I don't think he would ever argue against someone pursuing something he loves, but the point of this movie is to show that perhaps football isn't something that Kyle truly loves.

Cherry proves that by pitting Kyle against two things that he does truly love. One is Faith Davis, played by Nicole Beharie. Faith is Kyle's high school sweetheart who now is a single mother. Once Kyle sees her, he immediately wants to rekindle things. The other is Marie Bishop, Kyle's mother, played by Vanessa Bell Calloway. Marie is currently a single mother. Marie is still raising Kyle's younger sister, Chris. Kyle sees how she struggled and wants to find a way to give back. He really burdens himself and in fact feels obligated to do so.

What this movie does is establish Lance Gross as a movie star. He's done mostly Tyler Perry productions, mainly on television, but this is by far his best performance. Obviously, Lance Gross is one of the sexiest African-American actors in his age group out there right now. I even argued as much in my review of Tyler Perry's Temptation (2013), but what Cherry does is give Gross a lot of great scenes to highlight his acting ability.

It's easy for Gross to look at Nicole Beharie who is very reminiscent of Kerry Washington who has taken the mantle as being the sexiest African-American female working right now and show how much he loves her. Beharie is beautiful, so it's easy to give her looks of love. What Gross does better is give looks showing how much he doesn't love football, and you feel the weight of the world that he puts on his shoulders, and you get how heavy that burden is.

Cherry also writes great little scenes where Kyle and other characters talk open and honestly. One scene where Kyle has to speak in front of a 2nd grade class is perfect. There's only a slight drop of melodrama to kick things into gear, but it's not over-the-top, as you would get in a Tyler Perry film. This is a great debut for Matthew A. Cherry. He is one to watch and Lance Gross is gorgeous. His last name does not describe him at all.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


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