The Last Stand

THE LAST STAND is definitely not Arnie’s best action movie, but it does a decent enough job heralding the return of an action icon.

Proprietor of the catch phrase “I’ll be back”, Arnold Schwarzenegger keeps his promise by jumping back into a lead role after almost a decade in politics. Widely regarded as his comeback to high-octane action flicks, The Last Stand appears to be the much awaited launch vehicle whether you are an Arnie fan or not. As always, the secret to enjoying any Arnie movie is to expect everything but frown over nothing. Luckily, for old fans and new, this simple rule hasn’t changed. And neither has Arnie.

Reduced from a real life Governor to a washed-up county sheriff, Schwarzenegger’s Ray Owens is reluctantly caught between badass drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) making a run for the Mexican border, and the latter’s FBI pursuer John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), who is unable to keep up with the chase. Blazing at speeds close to 330 km/h in a modified corvette ZR-1, nothing on land and air will help the FBI stop Cortez from reaching a crossover point between Arizona and Mexico. But ensuring Owen’s sleepy town of Sommerton is a meddle free exit into Mexico, Cortez’s sidekick Burrell (Peter Stormare) has an army of mafia henchmen on standby; all armed to the teeth with enough munitions to blow up the moon. No amount of suspended reality can prepare you for what happens next—the biggest showdown in the smallest town. Lock n load!

For a Hollywood debut, South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon comes equipped for an all-out artillery barrage. Andrew Knauer’s simple yet high energy screenplay is non-stop, fast paced and sinfully indulgent that even the most addicted action movie junkies out there will have a rollicking time trying to keep up with the on-screen mayhem. Guns of all types and sizes with endless clips of ammo, jaw-clenching car chases with spectacular crashes, and explosions that don’t necessarily amount to a great ball of fire. Speaking of which, Kim’s violence is unforgivingly full and plenty, in your face and out the back, with blood splattering ‘pink mist’ head shots and a whole load of hamburger meat that fall out of the sky. At times, the violence will surely have some viewers grimacing in aversion, but it’s not all mindless action. Kim maintains some restraint by mixing it up with broad comedy and you guessed it: one-liners as corny as corned beef in fresh lemon juice. Ah…

The Last Stand is nowhere near a standing ovation at the Oscars or any other award ceremonies for that matter, but it gets by with some mediocre performances aligned towards some intentional comic relief. Playing the good guys are Luis Guzmán as the bumbling deputy ‘Figgie’ and Johnny Knoxville as Owens’ deputised hired hand. There is one particular stunt, I suspect, tailor-made with Knoxville’s Jackass styled adventures in mind and it seems to get the desired effect without the camera panning away. Whitaker’s Bannister doesn’t add much except some foot-in-mouth dialogue repetition, and in character, only serves to play the big city FBI agent who learns a thing or two from a small town sheriff. Playing the bad guys, Noriega and Stormare exude likeable style in their villains, but along with Schwarzenegger, their accents don’t quite gel in. Schwarzenegger himself seems apt for the role of an ageing lawman with a tumultuous past. You can’t really expect anything more from the man himself, except a sly hint suggesting future roles along the likes of grumpy old men played by Clint Eastwood in recent years.

The Last Stand is definitely not Arnie’s best action movie, but it does a decent enough job heralding the return of an action icon. Together with director Kim Jee-woon’s formulaic and spaghetti-western styled narration, there just might be a chance for both the director and the prodigal action hero last seen ten years ago. Pun unintended.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.