Release: Friday, January 18, 2013
If there were a chopper in this film, yes we would all be getting to it!!! I guess the closest thing we have is the schoolbus. But in some ironic twist of fate, Aahhnullld turns even THAT into a weapon. Which is why you need to see this movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his debut back to the big screen for the first time in a decade with The Last Stand. (I don’t really count his cameos in The Expendables.) He has a much more important mission in 2013 here: to protect his town, and look good while doing it. And will somebody bless this man already, because his accent just becomes more and more iconic with each role he turns in, it seems — no matter how those individual roles stack up in the grand scheme of everything. In the grand scheme that is his acting career, perhaps nothing has defined him more than that Austrian accent of his. Not even his arms that are wider than my head.
Regardless of the man’s age or his more dignified career as of late as the Governator, he is back at it in a surprisingly hilarious shoot-em-up that at once makes fun of as well as pays homage to the old westerns of the 50s and 60s. Replace the horses with some badass cars (the Corvette ZR-1 gets more than its fair share of product-placement ops); the ‘hills o’er yonder’ with Las Vegas; Billy the Kidd is now some guy named Gabriel Cortez, one of the most feared druglords in the world at this moment. Most noticeably, a good amount of the weapons here won’t fit into the gun holsters of the old days. The Last Stand is essentially a John Wayne classic with a contemporary veil thrown over it, then splattered with blood.
It focuses on a town and its heroic law officials — headed up by a more humbled Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sheriff Ray Owens and his seemingly inept deputies (Luis Guzman as Mike, Zach Gilford as Jerry, and Jaime Alexander as Sarah) — as they try to fend off a recently escaped and mercilessly cruel drug cartel boss by the name of Gabriel Cortez (played by I swear to God, Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, but really it’s Eduardo Noriega). He is using the Sheriff’s sleepy little nook of Sommerton Junction, Arizona as a gateway into Mexico. How’s that exactly? Well I’m glad you asked.
The lone drug dealer ain’t alone. He never is. In this case, Cortez has the help of a group of technology-savvy thugs led by a shadowy figure named Burrell (Peter Stormare) to create his perfect escape route out of the United States and back into Mexico. The mob’s function is to build a temporary bridge for Cortez to cross a particularly narrow section of a gorge near this town, and since they are his most realistic shot of getting away a free man, they also become a major fixation in this film. Indeed, they stir up a lot of dust and fire a lot of lead at innocent people. But the Sheriff ain’t gonna let all this go down without him fighting back. Not on his Austrian wristwatch.
One thing that really grabbed me with The Last Stand was its ability to balance what was to become obvious later as a bloodletting farce, with a good deal of laughs. Leave out one element and you no longer have a Schwarzenegger film. Leave out both, and well, you’d just be a loser. I’m not going to sit here and say that this was the most brilliant plot ever concocted — no, in fact there were some moments that were as cliché as cliché has ever been — but I’d be remiss in not acknowledging director Kim Jee-Woon‘s eye for capturing all the things that made Arnold endearing to us before he went on his political walk.
The Last Stand is a ridiculous plot. Ridiculous. You can’t tell me there aren’t at least thirty different places along this river valley outside the town of Sommerton Junction that this villainous drug bandit and his crew could have gone where they wouldn’t need to encounter other people — even if the ones they do end up stumbling upon seem to be unable to efficiently defend themselves. I guess if that were the case though, there’d be no movie. But there are other areas of flimsiness in the script: aside from some passion delivered by the consistent Forest Whitaker (who plays Schwarzy’s “higher-up” as an FBI agent) the dialogue is not impressive. It’s funny. But it’s not sophisticated enough to ultimately make us truly afraid of what faces the Sheriff and his town.
But perhaps that’s a good thing. I hope I speak for more than myself here but I had a great time watching the movie. It is a very, very fun action movie that does not take itself too seriously. I believe a lot of critics are having issues with where the FBI and small-town hero story merges: it all comes to a head in a rather anticlimactic fashion, but bullets sure are flying and bodies are dropping. The town is once again safe, and all the people you want to have survived, well….they survive. What more does one need to expect from a Schwarzenegger film? If one does need more, then they are S.O.L. in this film because we do get the bare-bones.
What sells this film over it’s elementary dialogue and character developments (one formerly imprisoned guy — Frank — gets redemption when Sheriff Owens realizes he’s short-handed to face the oncoming mob, as he frees him from jail and then deputizes him) is the film’s wonderful acting chemistry. Frank (Rodrigo Santoro), along with the local gun-nut Lewis (Johnny Knoxville) are brought in to the fold to help defend the town. Together with the clumsy Jerry, the teddy-bear Mike (Guzmán), and the only female deputy Sarah, they form what comes to be a rather likable bunch of representatives of this blip on the map. Actually, it’s so small it may not even be that. But this only adds to the hysterically comedic effect that this movie maintains successfully, one that will largely be overlooked or under-appreciated. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Sheriff of a town of this size? Really?
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The Last Stand is not a fraud of a movie. It delivers simply what it promises to deliver: a “no-strings-attached” experience where you get to see Arnie doing just what he did before, coupled with some pretty vicious action sequences complete with the blood and guts, not to mention with some awesome car chases that end in some pretty interesting places. There is certainly plenty of bang for your buck in this welcome-back role for the big man.
Recommendation: Fans of Schwarzenegger are apt to be taken easier than non-fans. Still, the very foundation of what going to see a movie is about, is very much there. I absolutely had a lot of fun watching it, getting to see Schwarzenegger interact with Johnny Knoxville and a new set of young actors. Knoxville is definitely there doing his usual thing, but it still fits this film without being obKnoxious. I wouldn’t say this is a ‘feel-good’ film, but it’s as close as you’re going to get with this many bullets.
Running Time: 107 mins.
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