The Last Stand

I’m not really sure if anyone asked for this. After a decade since taking a leading role in a feature film — he was kind of the Governor of California, you know — Arnold Schwarzenegger is back and in a silly and dumb action film. This time, he’s the sheriff of a small town in Arizona, and he’s going to have to gather his deputies in order to stop a fleeing drug lord from escaping authorities and crossing the border into his home of Mexico. Who is this movie for? Who wanted this?

I suppose it’s the people who jumped for joy when they say Schwarzenegger appear in the Expendables movies. They proved that, for reasons I’ll probably never understand, the former Governor still has appeal as an actor and, I suppose, as an action star. There are only about two positives I’ve ever held when it comes to Schwarzenegger: he can be charismatic and he had the physique to make action scenes believable that other actors simply couldn’t pull off. The latter is no longer true, as the actor is now in his mid-60s. But, I suppose that won’t matter because “old people doing action” is an “in” thing at the moment. Liam Neeson doesn’t have that physique, either, but I have no problem believing in him — probably because he’s a far better actor.

Anyway, Schwarzenegger stars as Sheriff Ray Owens, who used to be on the police squad in Los Angeles but is now content running the aforementioned small town in Arizona. In Las Vegas, the FBI attempts to transport drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) to … somewhere — it doesn’t matter — but is rescued in an elaborate ruse and winds up speeding toward the border at 200+ MPH. Soon, Owens and his town will be the only thing stopping Cortez.

Coincidentally, most of the town has been abandoned for the weekend because — I think it was a football game, or something. So, it’s going to be Owens and his deputies fighting in a ghost town against Cortez and his crew. It will be silly, it will be over-the-top, and it will be absolutely pointless because are you really going to bet against Schwarzenegger in his comeback role?

Sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. But, seriously, do you have any doubt how a movie like this one is going to end? The Last Stand takes a long time to get to this final battle, I’m assuming because it takes more than a couple of minutes to drive from Las Vegas to Nowheresville, Arizona, even if you’re going at such unsafe speeds. Plot-wise, this means we have a lot of waiting to do and in a good movie this would allow for character depth or development, but this isn’t a good movie.

Instead, we just get to watch Owens drive around, stand around, and talk. Pretty much any other character with a speaking role in this town winds up as a temporary deputy. This includes: actual deputies played by Jamie Alexander, Zach Gilford, and Luis Guzmán; a gun-nut played by Johnny Knoxville, who receives second billing despite barely being in the movie — I guess he’s marketable; and some guy who is in jail, played by Rodrigo Santoro, because we needed one more guy, I guess.

The Last Stand‘s tone is decidedly light. The gore is over-the-top, the jokes are constant and very rarely hitting their mark, Schwarzenegger still can’t act — which is funny in its own right, I suppose, if you’re a sadistic individual — and it’s bright and colorful, which might just be its most positive feature. There are stylistic flourishes every now and then, thanks to director Kim Ji-woon (here making his English debut), but for the most part this is formulaic to a fault. Many faults, actually.

Action fans will probably be happy that The Last Stand was released with an R rating (gore and profanity). I don’t think it needed one. With all the violence that today’s films can get away with, it’s likely that the removal of a few spurts of CGI blood and cutting out most uses of the F-word would have kept it at PG-13. We wouldn’t have a worse film, as neither of these add to it. And with a tone set at such a light level, a PG-13 probably would have fit even better. This isn’t a dark and gritty action film, and it doesn’t need its R rating.

All of the actors in this film should be ashamed of the performance they give. Schwarzenegger has only ever been good while playing a robot, Knoxville hasn’t been good … ever, I don’t think, Alexander does nothing to warrant attention, Guzmán does his usual schtick, Noriega is barely worth talking about as the villain, and– Wait a second. Forest Whitaker and Peter Stormare are both in this movie. That tells you how completely unmemorable both of them are in this film, and how poorly utilized they are.

The Last Stand is a silly, over-the-top, and terribly predictable action movie starring someone who should never have returned to acting and a bunch of C-list (at best) stars fighting against a villain whose scheme seems unimportant even while we’re watching the movie. Unless you, for some inexplicable reason, want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger return to the big screen after taking a decade off from leading roles, you have little reason to check out The Last Stand.

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