Arnold Schwarzenegger, our patron saint, has finally returned in a starring role after an extended cameo last year in The Expendables 2 with The Last Stand, the US debut of Korean director Kim Jee-Woon.
Arnold plays small town sheriff Ray Owens whose town becomes a potential escape route for a dangerous drug kingpin who has escaped federal custody in a souped up Corvette. Ray must assemble a rag tag group of deputies and whatever weapons they can find to hold off the incoming criminals. The plot is pretty generic and there’s some obvious cliches that most action fans will notice from miles away. A character says they want some action and leave town to pursue his dream of being in the LAPD, so of course he will be killed. A character says to not let anything happen to his car, so of course Arnold is going to destroy it by the end of the movie.
Arnold is 66 years old but he is still able to kick some ass and does plenty of ass kicking in The Last Stand. He is not as physically imposing as he was in say, Commando or Terminator, but he still has his mix of charisma and winking humor to balance things out. It’s a safe but solid return for the king of action. Besides Arnold, the best parts of the movie are Johnny Knoxville as a local gun nut turned deputy, and Peter Stormare as the right hand of drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez, Burrell. Stormare is just devouring scenery with a ridiculous Southern accent and is just fantastically fun to watch. His boss on the other hand is a completely generic and boring main villain and he and Arnold only meet in the last 5-10 minutes of the movie. He is supposed to be this extremely cunning criminal mastermind but whether it’s the script or the actor or both, he’s just completely uninteresting. Forest Whitaker rounds out the main cast as the world’s biggest asshole of an FBI agent and you almost immediately hate him and it hurts the movie that he is the focus of much of the first half of the movie until it switches over completely to Arnold.
Action wise, The Last Stand has some fantastic and interesting action sequences. The titular last stand is the entire third act of the film and runs up and down the main street of the small town of Sommerton Junction, with some funny interactions with the stubborn locals and Ray and his deputies using their scrounged up arsenal, which includes a flare gun and a WWII Vickers machine gun. There’s also some great car based action, since the main villain spends 90% of the movie in his souped up sports car. There’s a sequence where Cortez’s men destroy a blockade, first with two heavily armed SUVs and then clearing the wreckage with a snow plow that is excellent and the final chase is a super clever run through a corn field the turns sort of cat and mouse as Arnold and Cortez lose each other and try to figure out where the other car is but they can’t see anything due to the corn. The movie definitely saves most of the action for the final sequence but it’s definitely worth the somewhat slow build up.
The Last Stand is a solid and safe return for Arnold to big screen action but it’s not going to blow anyone away, plot wise. Where the movie shines is the action from Kim Jee-Woon and just Arnold back with one liners and kicking ass. If you’re as big an Arnold fan as we are, definitely check it out. Everyone else can probably wait till it’s on DVD/Blu Ray.
I’m like the J. Jonah Jameson of Everything Action, writing and editing and constantly demanding pictures of Spider-Man.