Ah, the delight of the films released in January. I admit it, I love the smell of bad celluloid early in the year. And Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first full film since leaving politics? Oh, I knew this would be a treat, a craptastic actioner to savor in these cold barren weeks of movie oblivion. What I hadn’t counted on was that The Last Stand wouldn’t be as bad as I expected.
Ah, the delight of the films released in January. I admit it, I love the smell of bad celluloid early in the year. And Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first full film since leaving politics? Oh, I knew this would be a treat, a craptastic actioner to savor in these cold barren weeks of movie oblivion. What I hadn’t counted on was that The Last Stand wouldn’t be as bad as I expected. Not that it’s great, but Arnold pulls off what I thought would be a debacle: trying to be an action star at 65. This is WAY better than anything Nicolas Cage has released in the first 3 months of any year. Yes, Season of the Witch, I’m looking at you.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a decorated ex L.A. cop now in near-retirment mode as a small Arizona border town sheriff. As nototious Mexican drug lord, Gabriel Cortez, is said to be heading his way to cross the border, Ray and his plucky but not-so-experienced deputies need to stop him before he gets to Mexico.
There certainly isn’t a whole lot of originality to this script – mostly in regards to drug lord Cortez, played by a very servicable Eduardo Noriega. He’s plenty ruthless and has little regard for human life, but his dialogue is about as thin as Schwarzenegger’s skin looks stretched across his face. But he does dish out some awesome driving as, once the elaborate escape plan is hatched, he drives a stolen modified Corvette out of Vegas toward the border toward Mexico at crazy speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour. There are some pretty sweet stunts and an amusing shot in a cornfield that are worth the effort of watching.
The Last Stand is chock full of things that blow up and get shot. You bet’cha. Cortez’s gang is led by the always enjoyble Peter Stormare. He always seems to be having a great time being a crazy gun-toting maniac. There’s a great showdown on the main street of this little town that has people dying in awful, but amusing ways. I mean, amusing if you’re not still freaked out by all the recent gun violence on the news as of late. If you’re sensitive to that stuff, you might want to stay away from this movie, ‘cuz, man, there is a lot of gun fire in this.
You’ll recognize a number of people in this; Luiz Guzman plays Ray’s second in command, Mike. Jamie Alexander is the lovely deputy Sarah Torrance, and you’ll see the always appreciated Harry Dean Stanton. Johnny Knoxville plays a local gun history kook, Lewis Dinkum. His role is pretty small, but is mysteriously being double-billed on the poster for this. One can only assume they’re trying to get the younger crowd into the theaters. They make it look like a buddy picture, which this is not. And if all those people weren’t enough, Forest Whitaker plays an FBI agent chasing the escaped Cortez from Vegas.
Arnold Schwarzenegger does a surprising job here. Despite the obvious absurdity of him being a sheriff of a small Arizona town, with a name like “Ray Owens” (Really? With THAT accent?), he manages to have some funny, self-deprecating lines. And don’t we expect that with Arnold? Really wouldn’ t be the same without them. And despite Arnold’s age, he still has a big, solid looking frame. I wouldn’t want to fight him.
The Last Stand has a Korean director of Jee-woon Kim, and this guy directed at least a couple films I dig, The Good, The Bad, the Weird, and the amazing I Saw The Devil. There’s definitley a certain style to this film – it has an energy that keeps the action a bit more interesting and not the usual super close quarters to the point of not being able to see the action happen. That’s a nice change of pace.
So, surprisingly, The Last Stand is more fun than I expected. It isn’t amazing, but I expected a laughable entry in Arnold’s repetoire. Turns out, this was smartly released at a time of year when it might make the most of what it is. In the kingdom of the crappy, the mediocre is king. Arnold gets three kittenhands from me. It’s an entertaining action film for when there isn’t much else to watch, and shows me tht maybe Arnold’s career isn’t over.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, curious to see what Arnold has up his sleeve next, besides another Terminator movie, …and another CONAN movie?! Oh, that almost warrants an article unto itself.