The Film: The Last Stand (2012)
The Principles: Written by Andrew Knauer. Directed by Kim Jee-Woon. Acted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Jamie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare, Eduardo Noriega, Zach Gilford, Christina Leucas, and Harry Dean Stanton.
The Premise: A slimy cartel boss (Noriega) escapes from prison with the help of his far reaching contacts. He procures a super fast car and sets out on the road towards the Mexican border which, if he crosses, he’ll be home free. The problem: a small town close to the border crossing that he’ll have to pass through first. A town with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sheriff and Luis Guzman as his deputy. It would be easier for Arnold to let him pass through the town instead of getting involved, but Arnold doesn’t know how to do things easy, he only knows how to do things with gunshots and punches.
Is It Good: You know, judging from some of the dialogue and the incredibly predictable formula, I can’t really say it is an objectively “good” film, but I did enjoy the hell out of it. When you have the bad guy hissing lines like “You want to play? Okay. Let’s play” at the hero, you’re probably not going to be looked at as anything other than fun and dumb. But the action is quick and brutal, while the story of a town taking a stand against a gang of bad guys is refreshingly old school enough to feel somewhat fresh instead of redundant.
Schwarzenegger is stiff and doesn’t move like he used to, but there’s a warmth there that I don’t know if I’ve noticed before. He seems like a kindly bodybuilder uncle who votes Republican but thinks Libertarian. I know this flopped pretty resoundingly, which is understandable based on the lackluster trailers, but I think it successfully transitions Arnie into the newest phase of his career: The Elder Statesman. I’m not going to use the excuse of age to explain why he’s moving so slowly (since I think Stallone is in the best shape of his life right now), so I’m going to chalk it up to the political arena leading him to a sedentary lifestyle. I still don’t think that’s it, though. I dunno, I like him in this. His performance isn’t any better than usual or anything like that; It’s just different in a way that captures more of a sense of personality and self from him than I’ve seen in some time. He just seems calm and relaxed and kind-of baked for the entire running time and it works.
The secondary cast is where it’s at, though. Knoxville does exactly what he was hired to do. Stormare plays Generic Henchman #8, so it’s not anything difficult for him, which is too bad because after Small Town Murder Songs I was hoping too see a new phase of his career begin, as well. He’s awesome, of course, but it’s the same type of awesome we’ve seen from him a dozen times. Luis Guzman is his typical jovial self, while getting to be a big part of a few dynamic action set pieces. Jaimie Alexander is fine as one of the deputies, even though she doesn’t leave much of an impression sort of like how she didn’t leave one in Thor. Forest Whitaker is in a different movie altogether as the agent hunting down the bad guy and doesn’t even manage to make it to the climax of the film in time. He shows up after the final bullet has been shot, making me wonder why he was included at all. He’s great, as always, it’s just that the character is completely superfluous and takes much needed time away from the townsfolk. Even Harry Dean Stanton pops up for a second as a crotchety old farmer, making me wish I had my copy of Paris, Texas out of storage. Also, Rodrigo Santoro is much more likable in this than he was in 300 or Lost, so I’m gonna give that guy another shot.
The reason most nerds like myself were excited for this one (even more so than it being the return of Arnold) was that it was the English-language debut of director Kim Jee-Woon, whose film I Saw the Devil is my favorite Korean revenge thriller of all time. He is a major talent and I hope the failure of The Last Stand at the box office won’t be seen as an artistic failure because if it wasn’t for his hyperkinetic action choreography and excellent pacing, this movie would have probably been awful. The dialogue in this is pretty cliche’d and Kim’s directorial choices and flawless casting are what saves this from being a direct-to-dvd fart in a car. If we’re comparing Kim’s career to John Woo’s, I would say that Hard Target is a better American Action Cinema debut, but only because it goes full-retard, whereas The Last Stand gets to about Forrest Gump level and then slowly backs away from it, avoiding all eye-contact.
Is It Worth A Look: I feel like if you’re a fan of action cinema, Kim Jee-Woon or Arnie, then you’ve probably seen this already, but if you were holding off until some trusted action nerd gave you the okay, then look at this review as me setting you down on the couch with a Mountain Dew, some Dorito’s and my grandmother’s quilt and telling you everything is going to be okay.
Random Anecdotes: Arnie’s sword from Conan makes an appearance.
Apparently, Sonny Landham is in this, marking this as his first appearance with Arnie since Predator. I watched this movie 15 minutes ago and I can’t tell you where Sonny Landham was.
This movie only made 12 million domestic.
Cinematic Soulmates: High Noon, 3:10 To Yuma, Catch Me If You Can, Seven Samurai, Furious 6, The Expendables, The Good, The Bad, The Weird.