It's evening in a house shared by five Iowa graduate students and four of them are awaiting the arrival of the fifth, who is bringing their dinner guest for some good food, good wine and good chat. As they wait, the television is broadcasting the show of one of the group's most hated celebrities: Norman Arbuthnot (Ron Perlman), a right wing talk show host who devotes his airtime to rail eloquently against the liberal left which these students are proud members of. Paulie (Annabeth Gish) turns off the set in disgust, protesting that it's her television anyway, and soon the doorbell rings. Pete (Ron Eldard) has turned up; his car had broken down and trucker Zach (Bill Paxton) helped him out. So they have a guest after all - but they'll soon wish they hadn't...
Liberal wish-fulfilment or Liberal nightmare? That's the tension at the heart of The Last Supper, a black comedy thriller that took the empowerment of the lefties to dark places. It has a great idea that stems from an old cliché: if you were able to kill Adolf Hitler when he was a young man, before he became the fascist leader he did, would you do it and save all those millions of people? In effect, Dan Rosen's script is bravely ambiguous, taking the viewer down the "Hell, yes!" path and then making them question the morality of such pat decisions when they're impulse driven instead of thought through properly.
It's not really a laugh out loud gagfest, more of a sly chuckle every so often of a comedy, but it is effective thanks to an excellent cast's keen playing. What happens when Desert Storm veteran Zach arrives is that he is persuaded to stay for dinner, at which he gradually reveals right wing views anathema to the students, so right wing in fact that he could be easily labelled a neo-Nazi. He insults the Jewish student Marc (co-producer Jonathan Penner) and the African-American Luke (Courtney B. Vance), then threatens the women, pulls a knife on Marc and Pete and is suddenly stabbed by Marc. The death of this nightmarish character plants the seed of a big idea in the students' minds.
Once the panic is over, Zach is buried in the garden with a tomato plant on top and the students must find a way to live with themselves. But what's this? Could it have been a thrill to rid the world of such an obnoxious personality? How about they try it again? It's about time the left stopped fighting amongst itself and stood up to start fighting, so an anti-gay minister (Charles Durning) is invited to dinner, allowed to let his mouth run on with hate, and then poisoned with arsenic-laced wine. More for the tomato plants. And so it goes on, with various racists, anti-abortionists, sexists and intolerant right-wingers falling victim to their crusade.
But after a while they start to descend into unknowing absurdity, such as murdering a librarian who wanted to ban Catcher in the Rye, and inviting an anti-sex education schoolgirl to their meal: when she gets away with her life, the divisions in the group are becoming apparent. This is down to Jude (Cameron Diaz) losing her former confidence and growing more nervous and tearful as the conscience of the collective. Meanwhile Luke and Paulie are as intolerant of the rightwingers as they are of the people who are supposed to be on the five's side and it all has to come to a head eventually. This happens when they finally get their prize: Arbuthnot agrees to go to dinner. The Last Supper isn't entirely airtight (didn't any of the victims tell anyone where they were going?), but throw in the fact that Zach was a child killer and the group's nerve breaking when they could have done the most good and you have a provocative little tale that is intelligent enough not to offer any easy answers. But I hope all sides can agree murder is no way to win an argument. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh.