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The Last Pirate: Antonio J. Medina leads as the tortured, cursed pirate Arius

On a mysterious island, a sword named Infernalius has Arius the pirate out to trap souls. Almost like the video game franchise Dark Souls, in which a player knight must kill and collect souls to strengthen, it appears the power of Infernalius grows with each life it takes. Writer and Director Christian Pavlik takes us on this haunting journey with Antonio J. Medina who plays Arius in this action-fantasy feature.

Medina has a natural swagger and physicality that so readily reads pirate. It doesn’t hurt that he also looks like the cousin of Antonio Banderas and Johnny Deep combined, two actors known for their swashbuckling performances in Zorro and Pirates of the Caribbean, respectively. Medina is naturalistic and possesses an innocence on screen that evokes empathy. He is a man stuck in a purgatorial-like cycle of possession. Infernalius chooses Arius as his puppet to do his bidding, and Medina taps into that trapped feeling so well on screen.

The Last Pirate - Trailer

When Arius tries to disobey, Infernalius possesses Arius. Thus, Medina also has to play as Infernalius which he does with sinister precision. His transformation into this character is subtle. Medina carries his performance so well through the eyes, where one moment you see the brow-furrowed, tortured Arius, plagued with guilt for murdering his people, another moment you see the eyes of the cold, psychopathic Infernalius. There is a particular bone-chilling moment where Arius is trying to fight through possession while Infernalius tortures his body from the inside. It’s horrific and Medina commits to it one hundred percent.

Ultimately, Medina had to have ownership over three characters: pure Arius, Arius fighting against the will of Infernalis, and Arius succumbing to the will of Arius. Medina does an apt job at distinguishing between all versions of Arius in physicality, tone, and emotion.

Medina’s counterparts Garth Gunderson, Jeff Parmenter, Rich Pintello, and Brittney Paul serve as Arius’ trials. Gunderson and Parmenter play pirates that seek revenge against Arius’ murderous ways while Pintello and Paul are a dysfunctional couple who meet Arius on the island by chance.

Based on the context of the couple’s clothing it appears that Arius meets the couple in the present day. Either Arius is immortal or somehow this island is stuck in time and the one who wields Infernalius holds the power? It’s a little ambiguous. Like anything written by Damon Lindelof for example, perhaps there are more questions than answers. Or perhaps clarifying the world-building could have helped the narrative overall.

Nonetheless, Gunderson and Parmenter offer sincere performances as Ellis and Alexander that match the weight of Medina’s performance. Alternatively, Pintello and Paul offer a saucy, playful, albeit dysfunctional contrast to Medina’s anti-hero brooding. If the whole film was a sad, tortured pirate killing other sad pirates who want revenge, it’s possible it could become old hat. Bryan and Julia throw a surprising wrench into the mix, even if it’s not entirely clear how all characters could be existing at the same time.

This is a well-shot film and Pavlik’s direction enhances Medina’s performance. Complete with high-octane fight choreography, and sweeping drone footage, for a (presumably low budget) indie feature it reads impressively cinematic. It would be interesting to see what other fantastical magic Pavlik and Medina could bring to the screen with even more resources.

In July 2023, Antonio J Medina won Best Actor in a Fantasy Film and Best Protagonist at the Actors Awards.


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