The Last Stand Review – Arnie’s All-out Assault!

Director: Kim Jee-woon

Writer: Andrew Knauer

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare

Release date: January 18th, 2013

Distributor: 107 minutes

Country: USA

Running time: 107 minutes


Best part: Schwarzenegger’s charming screen presence.

Worst part: He is only in half of the movie.

The saying “lived the life” is so easily thrown around nowadays. When people say it, I always try to pinpoint who exactly would best suit this phrase. Arnold Schwarzenegger may be the best choice. In his 65 years he has been a body builder, action movie icon, Governor of California and at the centre of multiple scandals. Now how many people can say they have done all that? The Last stand is his much anticipated return to leading man status. It may be a formulaic action flick, but it’s still a remarkable return to form.

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It’s a fun thrill ride if you are willing to suspend disbelief. Letting some inconsistencies go is a part of escapist entertainment. The Last Stand may reach the last nerve of anyone still on a high from the last month’s crop of Oscar-worthy movies. But it’s their loss for having preconceptions. Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a small town sheriff sick of protecting and serving. He looks over the town of Sommerton Junction. He is a tired, lonely and bored individual, but that’s the way he likes it. His only source of entertainment is the rag-tag group of deputies at his disposal. They will soon have their small town rocked by a large group of trigger happy tough-guys. It all starts when drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez miraculously escapes from FBI custody in Las Vegas. Hopping into a custom made sports car, he makes a dastardly run for the Mexican border. The only thing standing in his way is Sommerton and, of course, its bumbling police force. Owens must set aside differences with the townsfolk in order to stop the on-coming threat.

Johnny Knoxville.

Whether you like it or not, Arnie’s back! The Governator has overcome both a controversial time in office and his debaucherous past. After his wink-and-nudge performances in the Expendables movies, he has provided a much more subdued turn in The Last Stand. This is his first leading man role since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. He is, however, nowhere near as good as he wants to be. He struggles to deliver some of the many snappy quips and one-liners at his disposal. I’m going to forgive him, however, as his time in office took up most of the last decade. Despite his flaws, there has always been something mysterious about him. Both his physical presence and accent are comforting. As The Last Stand Progresses, he almost turns into an old friend you haven’t seen for a while. His presence certainly lifts the formulaic material here. This film harks back to ultra-dumb action flicks like Commando and Eraser. However, The Last Stand is nowhere near as strong as some of his best movies (The Terminator, Predator etc.). The movie, more than anything, is a warm-up. His next film is a prison break/drama co-starring fellow middle-aged tough-guy Sylvester Stallone. Let’s hope it’s an even bigger step up.

Jamie Alexander & Rodrigo Santoro.

This script, by Andrew Knauer, is a very perfunctory exercise in action movie excess. It serves only to provide a very simplistic narrative and some clichéd characters. Many of the characters are bumbling morons. The film offers such one dimensional character types as the ethnic comic relief, the rookie, the strong female cop, the town nut-job and the nice-guy sheriff. The FBI characters are also clichéd. Forest Whitaker is wasted as the angry FBI agent in charge of the case. People who wish to see this movie, however, aren’t  going to care. They want to watch Schwarzenegger stumble across the screen. The screenwriter must’ve known this fact. The script provides a few winks and nods to the actor’s past, present and future. He plays a surprisingly vulnerable character here. At one point, he sits down with the rookie cop on the force. He reflects on the past as he gives the kid some much needed advice. This type of acceptance is both rare and clever. Unlike Stallone, Schwarzenegger has now embraced his age, physicality and controversial persona. Schwarzenegger only takes up half of the movie (But takes up the whole frame whenever he is on-screen).

“You f*cked up my day off!” (Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger), The Last Stand).

Arnie & Forest Whitaker.

Both Schwarzenegger and South Korean director Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil) make this film entertaining. Jee-woon brings his kinetic and absurd style to this forgettable material. A lot of the time, foreign directors fail to adapt to the Hollywood system. Jee-woon, however, chose a premise that he could work with. His style is known to be a strange mix of hilarious and gory. He pulls it off again here, proving that foreign directors working in Hollywood sometimes get what they want. The action set pieces are shot and directed with flair. This film could’ve easily fallen back on excessive and irritating Hollywood action tropes. Instead, the camera lingers on certain characters, movements and deaths. The deaths, for example, have a slight comedic effect. Brains and guts are splattered all over surfaces. The violence in The Last Stand has a certain visceral edge. Ji-woon thankfully avoids unnecessary CGI effects. The final third is an engaging and kinetic bloodbath. In the true style of a western, the small country town is where the characters fight to the death. With its High Noon-style narrative, this is a western for people who hate westerns.

If you can’t believe that Schwarzenegger can tackle a bad guy off of a roof, and shoot him in the head at the same time, than I strongly suggest you avoid this movie. The Last Stand is both a kinetic western/action flick and a commentary on Schwarzenegger’s entire career. Like The Expendables 2, The Last Stand is a nod to 80s action cinema that is rather enjoyable.

Verdict: Arnie returns to form in this fun action flick. 

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