Writer-director Adam Mervis’ (21 Bridges, National Champions) feature directorial debut, The Last Days of Capitalism is – despite its lofty title – a skilfully restrained single-location two-hander.

A drunken night of sex and partying is stretched into a 72 hour-intellectual push-and-shove when a wealthy man (Mike Faiola) pays a mysterious young woman (Sarah Harper) to keep him company in his penthouse overlooking the Vegas strip. Starkly furnished and drained of colour, the set intentionally gives nothing away, allowing the characters to toy with the audience as much as each other.

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The Last Days of Capitalism is at its best in its uneventful yet gripping first half, as the Man and Woman test and challenge one another’s boundaries, all the while calculating just how much of themselves to give or withhold (their real names being one such battlefield). It’s a relentless set-up that succeeds in staying afloat thanks to the charisma of its actors, their fluid chemistry, and the film’s sporadically striking dialogue.

Faiola expertly treads the line between arrogance and concealed desperation, while Harper delivers a chameleon-esque performance in a role that defies attempts at characterisation. They make a spectacular duo, never too likeable but consistently magnetic.

The film starts to run out of steam around the hour mark, at which point the conversational tangents begin to feel more like narrative padding than insights into the characters’ minds. The two do touch on a number of interesting subjects along the way, however: financial privilege, of course, but also exploitation, the commodification of bodies, connection, authenticity, religion, and many more.

The dialogue – as one would expect from the breadth of topics discussed – is breathlessly quick-fire at points, but also knows how to pace its quieter scenes in a way that feels cohesive, thanks in no small part to Bethany Michalski’s deft cinematography and David Au’s precise editing, and a fantastic soundtrack to mesh it all together.

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It’s therefore disappointing that, for how well the actors sustain the film’s momentum, The Last Days of Capitalism trips up at the finish line. Where Mervis is trying for a punchy, climactic conclusion, its message is too confused to have the desired impact.

Despite its issues though, there’s no denying that The Last Days of Capitalism is a thought-provoking, dynamic, wonderfully acted, and well-directed indie drama.

The Last Days of Capitalism is out on demand now.