With basic themes of deception, betrayal, greed and love complicated by deeply wounded character psyches, The Last Time , although intriguingly dark and torrid, bites off a little more than it can chew.

Enacting the age-old dichotomy of a small town softie with big money dreams versus a cutthroat businessman with years in the game, the chemistry between stars Michael Keaton and Brendan Fraser is dynamic and sweetly sympathetic.

Jamie (Fraser) is the small town naiveté whose most prized possession is a tacky crystal trophy he received for being top salesman at his firm in Middle America. Ted (Keaton) is a bitter, insensitive, outraged businessman that has a mysterious past that's slowly and strategically illuminated.

Jamie shows up at major league New York firm, Bineview, with a dopey smile and sense of eagerness. His charismatic, blonde wife Belisa (Amber Valletta) is the glue of his American dream, as they plan a wedding and a future.

Meanwhile, Ted strikes terror into the hearts of his co-workers and bosses, but his astronomical sales anchor him confidently in his soulless job. When Ted and Belisa first meet, a blatant sexual charge sparks, and an uncomfortable weakness flickers across Ted's face. As Jamie continues to fail at work and turn into a crying vulnerable mess, Ted and Belisa begin a passionate affair that spirals into what might be love.

The film's attempts at challenging its audience is admirable, and the performances do their multi-layered personas more than justice, but the integrity of the film's message is sacrificed by trying to be too many things at one time. The film does succeed, however, in creating a unique atmosphere of empathy through a narrative world that is small and intimate, making it impossible to point to who is “bad” and what is “good.”

If the core of this film could be extracted and repackaged it would manage to defy Hollywood trends and appeal to a darker side of reality that has universal appeal. However, 20 minutes before the end of the film all attempts at cheap thrill subversion dissolve. It's as if a new writer signed on and changed the tone completely, for the sole purpose of creating an unexpected dramatic twist.

The melodramatic nature of the film is tempered by the subtle reminder to its viewers that everyone's life hangs in the balance of one dark secret or illicit act.

Grade: B-