Despite Arnold Schwarzenegger's plethora of cameos throughout the past decade or so (most recently in The Expendables 2) the action superstar hasn't headlined a film in quite some time. Now he's back (sorry) with The Last Stand and the trumpets are sounding the return of the master of big, dumb action flicks. And why shouldn't they?
The Last Stand has all the right parts to be a great action vehicle for Arnold. It's part western and part action movie and is directed by balls out awesome Korean director Kim Jee-Woon. It's not too big to be a disappointment, but not too small to seem like he's slumming it. This should be a movie that's just plain enjoyable.
Read on to find out if it succeeds, and I promise no more "I'll be back." references.
The Last Stand Director: Kim Jee-Woon Rated: R Release Date: January 18, 2013
If you're looking for a truly triumphant return to the big screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger this isn't it. The man headlined some of the greatest action movies ever made so it's a bit ridiculous to think that this relatively small-budget film could live up to the aura that Schwarzenegger's name creates. However, if you're simply looking for an action flick with at least two solid one-liners falling out of Schwarzenegger's mouth than you, my friends, have come to the right place. Not the perfect place, but definitely the right one.
The Last Stand is actually more of a modern western than anything else, giving it a lot more cred in the creativity book than I though it would deserve. Schwarzenegger plays sheriff Ray Owens, whose small town in Arizona is basically empty for the weekend due to the entire town traveling to a high school football game. Left behind with him are: his deputies played by Luis Guzmán, Zach Gilford and Christiana Leucas; the town goofball, Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville); the ex-military drunk Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro); some random towns folk (aka people who get in the way). Speeding into this western ghost town in a souped up sports car is escaped Mexican drug cartel king pin Gabrielle Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) whose thugs have already arrived in town in order to help him cross the Mexican border.
The evil outlaw coming into a small, western town is possibly the most cliche of western movie plots, but thanks to a whole lot of charm, action and blood The Last Stand manages to take the tropes and work with them. Never getting too smart for its own good, the movie barrels through the introduction of all its stereotypical characters to set up the titular last stand as a giant action centerpiece that usurps most of the film's running time. Jee-Woon delivers well paced action that keeps you enjoying the movie instead of focusing on its ludicrousness, and piles on the blood and guts as every bullet causes a mini-explosion of body parts.
No, Arnold still can't act all that well, and may have in fact lost a step since his heyday, but the man is given the lines he needs and spits them out like an old pro. After mowing down a squad of bad guys with a WWII chain gun in the back of a bus, the camera pushes in on his face as he expertly delivers a line that would have fallen flat coming out of the mouths of most actors. Moments like that make The Last Stand and Arnold work, while some more serious moments run counter to that. That's probably The Last Stands' biggest flaw: every once in a while it forgets what it is and gets serious.
This too serious slant especially crops up during the scenes with FBI agent John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker), who seems to think that because he's barely on the same set he isn't in the same cheesy action/western movie.The rest of the cast is surprisingly well used. Instead of being annoying and grating like they are wont to be, actors like Knoxville and Guzmán play their comedic relief parts in small portions leaving most of the heavy lifting to Schwarzenegger.
Of course Schwarzenegger isn't quite as good at heavy lifting anymore. The simple fact is that he's old, and that does weigh a bit on the film's action. Not enough to really ruin anything, but enough to keep reminding you that the man is over 60. Then again my biggest complaint about the film is that it could have actually used another action sequence. While the film is already one giant action set piece and isn't actually that short at 107 minutes, it definitely needed another bit of shooting to make it work. There's plenty of cool stuff to watch on screen, but another car chase or shootout scenario sprinkled in would have helped.
Maybe they could have trimmed out the parts of the film that took itself far too seriously for a campy western. Still, the blood, action and Arnold all make up for the few moments where the movie tries to actually have some sort of serious side. The only truly unforgivable fact about the film taking itself too seriously is that it robs Schwarzenegger of prime one-liner moments.