The Last Stop in Yuma County

An unnamed knife salesman (Jim Cummings) pulls into a rest stop in rural Arizona. The owner, Vernon (Faizon Love), tells him there’s no gas; he’s waiting for a fuel truck, which should arrive any moment now. There’s a diner around the corner where the salesman can wait. The opening credits sequence of the '70s-set thriller The Last Stop in Yuma County lets us know that the fuel truck has crashed and won’t be getting there anytime soon. That structure immediately sets the story’s suspense in motion – suspense, I might add, that doesn’t stop for ninety straight minutes.

Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue) owns the diner. She strikes up a pleasant conversation with the salesman. Then two other men in need of gas, Beau (Richard Brake) and Travis (Nicolas Logan), come inside to wait. They happen to be driving a car that fits the description of a getaway vehicle used in a bank robbery that morning, the salesman notes. An elderly couple arrives soon after, as does a young guy named Miles (Ryan Masson) who envisions himself and girlfriend Sybil (Sierra McCormick) as real-life versions of Kit and Holly from Terrence Malick’s Badlands.

So here you have a disparate group of people, at least two of whom are potentially dangerous, waiting in a diner for a truck that’s never coming. You can rightly guess that Beau and Travis make trouble. Everything else you won’t see coming. Writer/director Francis Galluppi has the characters bounce off each other in ways that are alternately humorous and tension filled. He pays particular attention to personality details so that the movie isn’t as much about what happens as it is about how it happens. Any time you’re in a room with strangers, there’s a possibility of unpredictable behavior. Much of the pleasure in The Last Stop in Yuma County comes from being surprised by how these individuals respond in a situation fraught with peril.


I was reminded of the first time I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs because of how deftly Galluppi mixes violent thrills with character-based quirkiness. Some insanely bloody stuff occurs in the film, yet it’s tempered by dark humor that springs from the personalities of the players. For example, it’s debatable who is more dangerous – the menacing Beau or the goofy, impulse-driven Travis. Similarly, Miles is obviously not anywhere close to the badass he thinks he is, but a willingness to contort himself into that role makes him a credible threat.

Even law enforcement comes with an edgy twist. The local sheriff (Michael Abbott, Jr.), who is Charlotte’s husband, is too busy putting together a model car to immediately notice the signs of trouble coming from his wife’s establishment. He’s got a spunky secretary named Virginia (Barbara Crampton), and she comes across as more on-the-ball. The sheriff does figure into the explosive finale. Noticing how different he is at the end than he was at the beginning is yet another satisfying surprise.

The actors have been perfectly cast to sell the twisting, turning nature of the plot. Cummings is terrific as the nervous salesman, Brake is terrifying as the robber, and McCormick and Crampton make Sybil and Virginia fascinatingly colorful. As strong as the basic material is, The Last Stop in Yuma County wouldn’t work as well without the high quality of the performances. The combination of a tense scenario and appealing characters guarantees that the movie keeps you perpetually on edge.

With his electrifying, wickedly entertaining, and beautifully photographed feature debut, Galluppi delivers a masterful look at how people of various moral ideologies react when trapped in a pressure cooker situation that involves a trunk full of money. Their troubles equal our fun.

out of four

The Last Stop in Yuma County is rated R for violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan