Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in director Kim Jee-Woon‘s first American film The Last Stand. Schwarzenegger eases back into the action genre with enough one-liners and memorable shootouts to make up for both of those shitty Expendables films. Kim Jee-Woon shoots the action with style and rarely skips a beat, leaving most of the baggage resting on Schwarzenegger’s shoulders and his rusty, yet still enjoyable performance. The Last Stand isn’t as good as Jee-Woon’s previous films, but it’s an acceptable return for an actor that hasn’t truly acted in nearly a decade.
Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) runs a quiet middle-of-nowhere sort of town out in Arizona. There isn’t much action to be seen on any given day and that works fine for Owens because he’s done with death. He used to be on a deadly task-force in LA once upon a time and now that life is mostly in his memory. He’s now settled down and laid those past demons to rest. That is until some crazed drug kingpin breaks free from custody and storms towards Owens’ town in a high-speed sports car.
Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is heading for the Mexican border and it’s up to Owens, his fellow officers and his newly-appointed deputies to keep Cortez from breaking through until the F.B.I (led by Forest Whitaker) arrives to help remedy the situation.
The Last Stand is a very basic action picture and that’s mostly why it works. Director Kim Jee-Woon is mostly known for his foreign films like The Good, The Bad, The Weird and I Saw the Devil, both films happen to be truly great, while The Last Stand plays more like those high-stakes action films from the 80s and 90s. Jee-Woon certainly knows what kind of film he’s making and that’s why he casts guys like Johnny Knoxville and Peter Stormare for the comedic relief, while keeping Arnie in the pilot seat, constantly firing rounds into any breathing thug within a 5 foot radius.
The story doesn’t do the film any favors, because it’s simply one of the most ludicrous plots that I’ve ever seen played out on film. A ruthless drug kingpin is literally calling all of the shots from his sports car, while driving nearly 200 miles-per-hour. It’s incredibly silly, but never offensively so.
Kim Jee-Woon‘s action sequences are slick, fast and fun. Some of the shootouts are riddled with CGI, but most have the old-fashioned blood spurts that will please just about any action fan. The camera work is especially fun to watch, because Jee-Woon knows exactly where to place the camera to maximize a scene’s overall potential, without too much cutting and pasting. Most of The Last Stand feels like a coherent and calculated piece of homage to so many great action films before it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is obviously the main draw to this one and rightfully so. He hasn’t starred in a film in years, unless you consider those horrible Expendables cameos acting. Here Schwarzenegger mostly fits the role. He walks-the-walk as the seasoned veteran of the force, with his wooden dialogue almost adjusting evenly with his increasing thirst for blood and destruction. His performance escalates in quality as the film pumps up the action. He gets more comfortable over the course of the film and so do you as an audience member. By the end of the film anyone claiming to be an Arnie fan will guaranteed be clapping or cheering in some manner, because Arnold beats the living shit out of some fools and it’s a great bit of fun.
Peter Stormare clocks in as the number two person to be paying attention to, because he’s channeling all sorts of random in his performance as the second man in charge to Cortez. I wouldn’t call Stormare’s performance great or even good, but it’s really hard to put a finger on it and for that I give him credit.
Johnny Knoxville might initiate an instant sigh when he first appears on screen, but his comedic shtick keeps the film pumping during the low spots and he’s mostly a small blessing in disguise.
I had problems with The Last Stand. Like for instance the film’s sluggish set-up, but the payoff is more-or-less worth it. It’s hard to firmly recommend this, because there’s nothing about the film that’s great. It’s fun and fans of action films or Arnold Schwarzenegger should see it at some point, but it’s a downgrade from director Jee-Woon’s previous two films. The Last Stand is a fairly pedestrian piece of R-rated action that will please fans in a slow January, but would have no chance opening during a more-crowded summer weekend.
The Last Stand – 7.5/10