The Last Manhunt, is at its core, a classic story of love and tragedy. Based on the name, you would be forgiven if your expectation was a fast-paced pursuit across the Old West, filled with shoot-outs and action. After all, it’s a manhunt. The Last Manhunt, though, is more of an arthouse Western. It’s clearly more an attempt at “high art” than “high noon”. While this could be disappointing to some, the film mostly achieves its goal. That goal was to tell the story, based on true events, of Willie Boy and Carlota according to the Chemehuevi’s oral account of what happened. The Last Manhunt is produced by Jason Momoa’s On the Roam and directed by Christian Camargo from a script by Thomas Pa’a Sibbet.


Based on true events in the early 1900s Wild West, Willie Boy falls in love with Carlota from the Chemehuevi tribe despite being forbidden to be together. Due to her father’s refusal to give his blessing to the pair and the conflict between the two families, a fatal incident forces the young couple to flee the only place they know as home. In this tragic tale of love, loss, and realization, Willie Boy and Carlota fight to persevere even with all odds against them.

One of the more interesting subplots in the story revolves around Randolph (Mojean Aria), a journalist looking to sensationalize Willie Boy’s story. This media manipulation to transform Willie Boy into a public menace for white readers is an intriguing part of the overall story. However, it is ultimately a minor part of the movie. Personally, I would have loved to see this featured a bit more.


Director Christian Camargo brings a strong sense of style to The Last Manhunt. It’s worth noting the film is shot in a narrow aspect ratio which may come as a shock to those who are not used to seeing that format. The film is filled with striking shots and gorgeous images. Simply put, visually, The Last Manhunt is beautiful. Camargo makes excellent use of the stunning landscapes the southeastern area of California offers. Much of the film was shot on location in Joshua Tree, and its unique landscapes are themselves an essential character of the film. Providing not only the backdrop but also at times an adversary the characters are forced to contend with. As I watched the movie, I found myself in awe of the scenery and landscapes featured.

Equally, the score of The Last Manhunt is exceptional and brings additional levels of depth to the emotions the story attempts to convey. The combination of the landscapes and the music are used in tandem to great effect. Camargo goes all in on this atmosphere. He uses it like a novelist uses words, allowing the cinematography to capture internal feelings. The only downside is at times the film can be too reliant on the atmosphere and doesn’t do enough to develop the characters and plot.


Everyone in the cast does a wonderful job of bringing the story to life. I also applaud the fact the film features a large Native American cast. The Last Manhunt features Martin Sensmeier (“The Magnificent Seven”) as Willie Boy; Mainei Kinimaka (“See”) as Carlota; and Lily Gladstone (“Killers of the Flower Moon”) and Zahn McClarnon (“Dark Winds”) as Carlota’s parents. Sensmeier and Kinimaka perform admirably in their roles, though I feel a bit more could have been done with their characters to make the audience care about their fate.

Though the true heart of the story, their romance never feels fully developed. Though there are moments when the opportunity seems available, the focus is quickly shifted back to the “manhunt”. We are mostly left with short glimpses into their relationship as they gaze longingly into the distance. Ultimately, we know we are supposed to sympathize with the young couple, but by the end, we don’t feel as invested as we could have.

The supporting cast who make up the members of the posse do the most with the limited time they have. Overall they are underdeveloped and given minimal depth. For example, Sheriff Wilson (Camargo), has a past tragedy that is only hinted at but never really expanded on. As far as Jason Momoa, while featured prominently in the cast list and the movie poster itself is only featured in a few scenes. This could be disappointing for those who were expecting him to be on screen more frequently.


The Last Manhunt takes a poetic approach to the story. Letting the audience feel the story more than having it told to them. I can’t fault the director and writers for attempting this, as it provides something different for the genre. While I appreciate the idea and intent behind this approach, the execution at times doesn’t meet the goal. This film was a passion project for Momoa, and I am appreciative of the commitment the creators had to honor the oral history of the Chemehuevi tribe to tell the true story.

As a self-admitted fan of Westerns, I still do enjoy the film and the story it’s trying to tell. Would I have enjoyed a bit faster pace and tighter script at times? Absolutely. But I will give credit to Camargo for attempting to do something unusual for a Western. This film is best for those who are willing to be taken on a slow journey. There are certainly some standout moments during the course of the film. The final act of the film is by far the best. The emotional stakes that are slowly built up over course of the movie, are finally delivered. Unfortunately, the path it took to arrive there, is more often than not, underwhelming.

The Last Manhunt arrives in theatres and Video-on-Demand on November 18.



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