FILM REVIEW: The Last Stand
A little Arnold, it seems, goes a long away.
Like the best Arnold roles, the story of The Last Stand is a simple one. There is a bad man. Drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez has slipped the clutches of the FBI and is making a run for the border. As the criminal in his custom Corvette rockets towards the sleepy Arizona town of Sommerton, only one man stands in his way. Sheriff Owens.
The Last Stand is an uncomplicated action film that knows what it loves: Ammo, explosions, fast cars and dumb jokes. In a world where too many directors edit their actions sequences into an unwatchable visual slurry (looking at you Michael Bay), this B movie stands as a welcome throwback. Sure, the characters feel a little musty: The lines of good and bad are drawn so brightly they may be flashing in neon. But there's an obvious affection for the form here, created by the collaboration of the original pumped-up icon and Korean director Jee-woon Kim.The bad guy races for the border in a custom Corvette. (Alliance Films)
Kim made his name with frenetic, stylized thrillers such as Western-flavoured The Good, the Bad,the Weird. While this is his first film for an English-speaking audience, he seems at home in Sommerton's empty streets and open highways.
If The Last Stand is guilty of anything, it's of being a bit of a tease. After introducing us to Sheriff Owens, an ex-LAPD officer who came to Sommerton for the quiet, too much of the first half of the story concerns the escape of Cortez. Forest Whitaker is largely wasted as FBI Agent
Exposition Bannister, who soaks up much screen time bellowing at his generic G-men, while the slick-haired Cortez outwits the agents
with a series of schemes involving magnets and soccer jerseys. (Aside: What ever happened to Whitaker? Can't anyone write script worthy of Ghost Dog? Sigh.)
Mustering his tiny police force
As Cortez zooms towards the border in a Corvette ZR1, (Jee-woon Kim appears to have a thing for cars) the good ol' Sheriff begins to realize there are strange goings-on in his town. Mysterious truckers and missing farmers cause the local police force, which numbers in single digits, to band together to create a blockade to stop Cortez in his tracks.
Sure you could ask why someone of Cortez' means didn't just charter a helicopter instead of building a (spoiler) shiny chrome bridge to drive over a gully? But niggling worries like that will just get in a way of enjoying Arnold doing what he does best: Standing his ground, firing large calibre weapons and delivering one-liners with frightening consistency.
Like William Shatner and The Last Stand co-star Luis Guizman, Arnold has reached that pop culture singularity where anything he does is just intrinsically amusing. Call it comfort, charisma or just affection for the macho men of yesteryear, Arnie still has a screen presence all his own.
Good choice for a comeback
The 65-year-old actor did many of the stunts himself and remains the kind of tough guy who can make yanking shards of glass out of his leg look like a visit to the nail salon. While the supporting cast is more of the cartoonish variety, Johnny Knoxville as the gun nut, Peter Stormare as a drawling thug for hire, Arnold chose well in picking the part for his big screen return.Arnold Schwarzenegger, shown here with Rodrigo Santoro, plays the weary veteran well. (Alliance Films)
Sheriff Owens is a weary veteran who's seen his share of action already. Before the carnage begins, he warns one of his eager deputies "L.A. is not all you think it is." Arnold doesn't over torque the line, but it's a subtle nod that this action figure may have gained a bit of wisdom along the way. Arnold Schwarzenegger knows his strengths and he knows how to sell them. (Now if he'd only listen to reason and abandon plans for a Twins sequel).
While The Last Stand certainly has its faults, (such as an over-extended game of hide-and-seek in a cornfield) this is exactly what fans of the Terminator have been waiting for. Plus with Stallone, Willis and others all set to burst back onto the big screen, it looks like Hollywood's senior moment will be an extended one.
BONUS RENTAL RECOMMENDATION: If you really want to see the best high-kicking action comeback in years, check out JCVD. It's the Muscles from Brussels as you've never seen him.
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