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Originally published Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 3:06 PM

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‘My Last Day Without You’ loses depth without strong lead

A movie review of “My Last Day Without You,” a romantic dramedy spoiled by the poor casting of Ken Duken as a German businessman who closes down a New York company and then woos one of his ex-employees.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 1.5 stars

‘My Last Day Without You,’ with Ken Duken, Nicole Beharie, Reg E. Cathey, Marlene Forte. Directed by Stefan C. Schaefer, from a screenplay by Schaefer and Christoph Silber. 90 minutes. Not rated. Pacific Place.

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It’s not often a competent if forgettable movie can be completely torpedoed by one of it’s stars, but that’s the case with “My Last Day Without You.”

A romantic dramedy that combines a fish-out-of-water angle with a mismatched-couple trope, “My Day” would have worked better with a more substantive performance in the role of Niklas.

The character is a well-heeled German hatchet man sent by his European bosses to shut down the New York City branch of a financial firm.

We’re supposed to dislike Niklas in an early scene where he shrugs off the anxieties of the company’s newly terminated employees. He is indeed repellent, but not quite the way co-writer and director Stefan C. Schaefer had in mind.

Niklas is played by Ken Duken, a young German actor who should give us some hope his role is worth caring about and potentially redeemable.

But his Niklas never rises above being a jerk, and when he gets slugged on a sidewalk at one point, it’s easy to take perverse glee in his pain.

In Manhattan for just a day, Niklas encounters Leticia (a delightful Nicole Beharie), a talented singer who had a day job at the company he just shuttered. She’s upset at her dismissal but doesn’t know Niklas was behind it. Hoping for romance, he doesn’t bother to tell her.

When Leticia finds out, she plots an interesting revenge. At this point in the script, an unguarded Niklas is supposed to shine as a better person. But Duken comes across as nothing more than unctuous, with a smug gaze and vocal delivery barely above a whisper. It’s hard to imagine anyone giving his character the time of day, let alone Leticia’s heart.

Schaefer does far better with other cast members, especially Reg E. Cathey as Leticia’s wonderful pastor father, and Marlene Forte as a church assistant buoyed by love.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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