After 10 years of being away from the movies, and dipping his toe back in the water with last year’s The Expendables 2, beloved action hero-turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in the spotlight with The Last Stand, an energetic and light-hearted action flick that never spares the bullets or comedic relief but fails to leave a lasting mark as any sort of great return to form for the incomparable lead actor.
The Last Stand follows Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), a Sheriff of the small town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona, where nothing much ever happens beyond the yearly parade and a car being parked in a red zone. But when the boss of a Mexican drug cartel breaks out of custody and heads straight for the border via Ray’s town, it’s down to the Sheriff and a small group of enthusiastic locals to stop him.
It may be down to the fact that Arnie is getting up there in age and therefore isn’t able to do a lot of the action stuff he used to, but he isn’t in it as much as you might expect. The rather derivative script then feels the needs to fill that rather sizeable void with everything from a wise-cracking Jackass in the form of Johnny Knoxville (who ranges from fun to annoying throughout), Luis Guzman as a sort of bumbling deputy and a rather hackneyed Fast and the Furious-esque story about a Mexican drug lord heading for Arnie’s otherwise peaceful town in a car that gets mistaken for a jet plane because it’s so fast. Forest Whitaker turns up in what can only be described as a paycheck role, playing the requisite obsessed FBI man tracking the escapee and who brushes Arnie’s “useless” small town Sheriff to the side as a mere afterthought. Idiot…
This is the English language debut of the masterful South Korean director Kim Ji-woon, whose previous films include A Bittersweet Life, A Tale of Two Sisters, ‘The Good, the Bad, the Weird’ and most recently the insanely violent I Saw the Devil. I think it’s safe to say that The Last Stand isn’t his strongest effort, and I’m not sure if that’s down to the fact that he’s used to directing films that are not in English, or a script that could be considered silly even under the action circumstances, or perhaps a combination of things. Nonetheless he injects the film with a lot of energy and throws caution to the wind in some of the film’s more ridiculous and violent moments.
It takes its time getting to the point with plenty of heated FBI discussions on the one hand and establishing that Arnie is now old (ya know, just in case we couldn’t work that out for ourselves) on the other. However, once it gets to the inevitable final showdown – or last stand as the title suggests – the film really picks up pace and delivers some very fun, tongue-in-cheek action utilising everything from pistols to Gatling guns with bodies getting blown away and cut in half like action movies are going out of fashion. It’s also a nicer looking movie than your average action fare, with a lot of vibrant colours and the like, although some dodgy CGI especially towards the end when the movie’s reach exceeds its grasp and sort of undoes a lot of its hard work.
The Last Stand is an adequate, if not exactly remarkable, action movie with enough shooting, fighting and one-liners to satisfy its target audience, while never getting anywhere near the level Arnie has reached in the past. His role in last year’s The Expendables 2 hinted at his return and while it’s comforting as an action film fan to see him headlining a film of his own again, it’s not the triumphant return to form you might be expecting. Perhaps that was inevitable.
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