jason stives gets in the choppah…
The Last Stand is a fitting title for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return as a leading man to the big screen. While it doesn’t indicate one last ride for the aging action star (last time I checked he has filmed three films still to be released) but it feels more like the phasing out of an outdated form of action film.
Now, I grew up on a healthy diet of action films and The Governator along with likes of Stallone, Van Damme, and Willis. They played an indelible part in my Friday night adventures with my father growing up. However, many of those stars have since seen better days (although Stallone has been able to momentarily revive his career in the past seven years) and in the time since they last graced big box office numbers a new breed of action star has come into the fold that is quick, clever, and dead serious.
One of the reasons I have never been that excited about the Expendables films is that it constantly nudges and winks at you about the past instead of being just what it should be: an over-the-top action film that is trying to be serious. The Last Stand ultimately feels more like those films than it does The Expendables and that’s a good thing but it’s a film that still feels like it has seen better days.
The Last Stand also plays up the plot line of another famous and ancient film trope; the western, in particularly the notion of a Sheriff defending his town from a band of unruly outlaws. This time though the old west is a border town named Sommerton Junction where a disgraced LAPD officer resides over small crimes with a tiny band of officers that include Luis Guzman. Seriously, the best you can muster up for law enforcement is Luis Guzman? Anyway, it’s easy to keep things under control in this small community until a notorious kingpin on the run from the law makes his way towards the town and through the Mexican border.
The film cuts its time between Schwarzenegger and his posse finding value in their crimeless town and the FBI (led by Forrest Whitaker) tracking down the drug lord in his supped up car that can somehow evade every advanced bit of technology in the FBI. Because they are inefficient at their manhunt (and because Forrest Whittaker is perpetually always pissed off) it’s up the lone sheriff and a band of low end deputies as well as gun hoarder (played by Johnny Knoxville) to defend the town and stop this drug lord from crossing into Mexico.
The story itself is very straight forward and thankfully because everything feels a bit formulaic you don’t spend your time rolling your eyes when certain clichés pop up. While I normally groan at old action clichés in the 21st century I would be remised if I said I didn’t want some good ole fashion cheesy one-liners here and there and sadly there weren’t too many. What there was is an abundance of squib and bullet mayhem in the latter half of the film which is orchestrated very well even if the bloodshed is kept to a minimal at times.
It’s during said mayhem that the best elements of the film come out and director Kim Ji Woon does a great job of keeping the action tight and from going completely over the top. The acting for the most part runs between serviceable and mediocre which is to be expected but what of the returning governator? Thankfully, Arnold has done the occasional small role even when he was still in office so his acting doesn’t seem fazed at all but you can see a different man in his eyes from when we last saw him in a starring role.
The Last Stand is a very serviceable action film that stays put in being what it is suppose to be and that’s fine. With Schwarzenegger back in business I expect some entertaining releases down the line from him and while The Last Stand doesn’t completely resuscitate his long dormant career its more than enough to keep a subsection of action film fans satisfied and that includes this article’s Commando loving author.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Serviceable Entertainment)