4:44 Last Day on Earth Review 

Abel Ferrara's apocalypse

Thursday, Mar 22 2012

In writer-director Abel Ferrara's vision of the apocalypse, meter maids ticket cars and Chinese joints deliver right up until the end. The media's "live coverage" continues almost as long. Sorry, haters: "Al Gore was right," says NY1's Pat Kiernan, playing himself. The ozone layer, Kiernan tells us, has dissipated "far more rapidly than even the worst doomsayer could have imagined," and now life on Earth is certain to end for good at 4:44 a.m., Eastern Standard Time.

In Ferrara's 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Cisco (Willem Dafoe) and his much-younger girlfriend, Skye (played by the 60-year-old Ferrara's own much younger girlfriend, Shanyn Leigh), begin the last night in their Lower East Side loft with fractured focus, their attention divided between multiple TV and computer screens, simultaneous iPhone and Skype calls. While Skye meditates and obsessively splatters paint on a giant canvas, Cisco is increasingly drawn to New York City itself, an organism apparently oblivious to its expiration date.

Impending doom is both mentally all-consuming and incomprehensible; with no way to prevent the inevitable, time becomes the enemy. (When Cisco dozes off after he and Skye make love for possibly the last time, he yells at her for not waking him up.) The ticking clock effectively set, Ferrara's characters essentially make the worst of it. In this moment of highest anxiety, they fall back on the stale running dramas of their lives: Will ex-junkie Cisco blow a couple of years' sobriety by cooking up one last time? Is this middle-aged father really over the ex he left, as his daughter's mother puts it over Skype, to "run off with the teenager"?

click to enlarge The end of the world, Abel Ferrara style
  • The end of the world, Abel Ferrara style

Location Info

Related Stories

Ferrara's own continued collaboration with Leigh (who was perfectly cast as a cabaret ballerina in his excellent, never properly distributed Go Go Tales but less so as Janis Joplin in doc Chelsea on the Rocks' fantasy flashbacks) is charming. But her unmodulated shrillness doesn't exactly add weight to the existential angst convincingly portrayed by Dafoe. At least Ferrara uses Leigh's limited talents productively: The scene in which she embraces the Chinese delivery boy with the cry "I'm so glad I knew you!" is hilarious, intentionally or otherwise.

4:44 Last Day on Earth is Ferrara's first narrative feature since 2007's Go Go Tales — he has made three documentaries in the interim — and it almost finds a middle ground between fiction and non. It's both chamber drama and experimental found-footage film, relying heavily on appropriated media (Al Gore explaining the human role in climate change on Charlie Rose, video of the Dalai Lama speaking on man's responsibility to the natural world) to provide context and subtext to its disaster fiction.

The use of stock footage eventually approaches overkill in the montage-heavy climax. Much more impressive is the way Ferrara uses his own "documentary" footage of the city — the steady stream of cabs, the fully occupied row of ellipticals in the gym spotted above a 24-hour Duane Reade — and transforms it, imbuing real images of "normal" life with supernatural dread.

4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH | Written and directed by ABEL FERRARA | IFC Films | Monica

Related Content

Related Locations

Now Showing

  1. Tue 29
  2. Wed 30
  3. Thu 31
  4. Fri 1
  5. Sat 2
  6. Sun 3
  7. Mon 4

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!


  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.
  • Are Westerns For The Weak? Not According to "Sensei" Martin Kove
    Decades ago, the western film was king, with nearly 100 produced every year at their peak in the 1940s, and their popularity extending years beyond. But today, other than rare successes like Django Unchained or True Grit, the genre is not in great shape. Films such as Cowboys and Aliens and The Lone Ranger failed to spark new interests in the western. It's a tough nut to crack, but veteran movie bad guy Martin Kove -- most well known for his role as Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid -- is passionate about the classic American film genre and is trying to revive it. We spent an afternoon at his home talking about westerns and how to make the genre interesting again. All photos by Jared Cowan.

Now Trending