“The Last Stop in Yuma County” is Sun-Bleached Nihilism at Its Finest

What would you do if you found yourself stuck in a slowly unfolding crime? Would you have the courage to save the day? Would you become another one of the bodies or join the criminals at the first opportunity? Writer/director Francis Galluppi posits this very scenario in The Last Stop in Yuma County, a slow descent into outlaw hell. This neo-noir crime drama traps us in an ill-fated diner with a bevy of quirky characters fighting against each other to survive. The twisting nightmare digs into nihilism and sunbleached horror leaving a pile of bodies in its wake. 

An everyman Knife Salesman (Jim Cummings) coasts into a remote gas station on fumes only to find that the pumps are dry and there’s not another stop for hundreds of miles. Killing time in the diner next door, he bonds with waitress Charlotte (Jocelin Donahue) and resigns himself to wait it out. Unfortunately, a pair of bank robbers on the run are also out of gas and hole up in a neighboring booth. When the Knife Salesmen recognizes their car, Beau (Richard Brake) pulls a gun and demands that they carry on as usual. With the clock ticking and no gas truck in sight, each new customer heightens the tension and makes the chances of a clean and safe getaway increasingly less likely. 

Cummings and Donahue lead this sprawling cast with engaging, but quiet performances that never let us forget the stakes. Brake is chilling as the senior bank robber with Nicholas Logan equally off-putting as his careless younger brother. But a plethora of likable character actors cross the threshold of this ill-fated establishment. Robin Bartlett and Gene Jones add bits of dry humor as a kind, but clueless elderly couple while Jon Proudstar inadvertently throws gasoline on the fire as a friendly local devoted to Charlotte. Sierra McCormick and Ryan Masson complicate the situation as wannabe outlaws with exceedingly poor judgment while Faizon Love is an endearing attendant from the adjoined gas station. 

Horror darling Barbara Crampton has a few delicious scenes as an administrative assistant to Charlotte’s police chief husband Charlie (Michael Abbott Jr.), but Connor Paolo steals the show as his needy deputy Gavin. Oblivious but friendly, he’s so concerned with winning his boss’s approval that he can’t see the crime occurring in front of his eyes. Stellar performances abound in this tangled web and the fun of watching an exceptional cast play off of each other softens the edge of the slowly mounting horror. 

This modern bank heist film has a timeless quality and exists as a closed loop of destruction. Cummings gives a quietly endearing performance in early scenes that eventually breaks our hearts as the film twists and turns. Galluppi’s shocking conclusion feels both inevitable and gut-wrenching, a perfect end to this nihilistic story. As we watch these disparate characters confronted with a veritable nightmare, we’re left wondering what we would do in the same situation. One bad decision follows another and we mentally beg our heroes to reconsider their actions. But the sharp hopelessness is the point. Everything and nothing matters at once in this remote diner on the outskirts of hell. 

Jenn Adams is a writer, podcaster, and film critic from Nashville, TN. Find her social media nonsense @jennferatu.