The Last Stand (2013)
By: Devon B. on March 5, 2013 | Comments
The Last Stand Poster
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Starring:: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Peter Stormare
Screnplay: Andrew Knauer
Country: USA
External Links
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Not counting The Expendables series, I haven't seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in the theatre since Eraser, and while I didn't mind T3, the last movie of Schwarzenegger's that I really liked was the goofy True Lies. He lost me in the late 90s with a series of forgettable films, but that didn't mean I wanted the guy to quit acting and be a politician, so I was excited when I heard he was returning to movies. I figured that Schwarzenegger would need to transition into a more Clint Eastwood sort of part now, the tough guy that's getting on in years but is still a threat, but I wasn't sure if Schwarzenegger would capture a menace like Eastwood still brings, so I was a little uncertain as I entered The Last Stand.

Schwarzenegger is a small town sheriff, looking forward to some quiet time because most of the townsfolk are riding out on their one horse for a football game. Things don't go the way he's hoping because a cartel boss escapes from the FBI and is driving a supped up Corvette right to the quaint little town. Much is made about how fast the modified Corvette is, but I don't think anyone mentions that it must have special tyres because they don't ever need changin' and the car does a lot of kilometres. That would also explain why the law enforcers aren't able to just shoot out the tyres. No doubt thanks to these nigh-invulnerable tyres, the FBI can't seem to stop this fugitive so it's up to Schwarzenegger and co. to sort this shit out.

When I say "and co.” I mean it, because Schwarzenegger has a lot of company. He's got not one but two comedic relief sidekicks, one played by Luis Guzmán who I've always found amusing, and one played by Johnny Knoxville who didn't annoy me too much in A Dirty Shame. Knoxville isn't on hand that much, and there are other notable bit players like Harry Dean Stanton. Maybe Stanton should've been given Knoxville's part instead of the one he got 'cause that would've been funny. Someone with a much larger part is Forest Whitaker, who gets almost as much screen time as Schwarzenegger. Now, I like Whitaker just fine, but I don't go to a Schwarzenegger movie to see Whitaker, and given their characters are kept separate for most of The Last Stand it almost feels like a movie with two leading men. As a Schwarzenegger movie, this would be The Last Stand's big failure, as it doesn't feel like he's in the movie enough. It takes awhile to get to his character, then it keeps cutting back to the FBI chase so Schwarzenegger's side of the story has trouble building momentum. In fact, if the movie were recut, it could probably become a standard FBI thriller rather than a comeback for action cinema's king. There are just too many characters vying for screen time, with two lead villains; two heroes; two comedic relief sidekicks; and two different sidekicks presumably present just so there's some sort of romantic interest because Schwarzenegger's too old to have one himself. I don't know that my reasoning for that last one is correct, but if it is I actually applaud the decision because I never believe these men in their 60s seducing 22 year old women in action movies.

Schwarzenegger's age is touched upon with a few jokes, some of which are funny, some which are as laboured as he is when he's called upon to run. It's clear from the first time we see him that Schwarzenegger is not as toned as he used to be, which is only natural given his age, but he is still an imposing figure with some big underlying muscle mass. This helps him out because he doesn't have that hardness that Eastwood does, or indeed the grace to give up on dying his hair to try and look younger. But maybe Schwarzenegger doesn't really want to move into Eastwood's level, as his persona was always quite different. Eastwood can be a bit humorous, but Schwarzenegger's great strength was the ability to let the audience know he was in on the joke when his movies got ridiculous. He has a few little moments like that in The Last Stand, like when he delivers a ridiculous expositional speech, but he seems to mostly be playing it straight. His one-liners are also toned down, but that may be in part because he's kept out of the action for so long. When he finally confronts some of the villains I figured the movie was about to go full tilt boogie after its long setup, but no, it moved into further setup.

Not to imply that The Last Stand is a snooze fest, it's just deliberately paced, with director Jee-woon Kim holding everything in check. So while the movie only ever briefly lets loose in contained bursts, it's not dull. All up, lots of bullets fly and the movie gets really fucking loud several times, and there are some great "Oh, shit!” moments. The characters all appear to have invincible eardrums, unless a bullet actually comes into contact with the ear itself, and big guns are fired with gleeful abandon. When push comes to shove, Schwarzenegger gets his moments of gun glory, and a few opportunities to show that while he may be a little long in the tooth and artificially hiding his snow on the roof, he's still a powerful adversary.

A movie like The Last Stand is only ever good as its villain, so the filmmakers decided to play things safe and have two main villains, who are also kept separate throughout the film just like the two heroes. The lead villain is played by Eduardo Noriega and I found him a bit generic and bland, and an unfitting final fight opponent, though he does show some manic fury at times that it would've been nice to see more of. His right hand man is Peter Stormare, and when I first saw him on screen I thought he was going to be a classic action movie villain, and he almost is. Like so much of this movie Stormare is held back, and not given enough to do. Casting Stormare was a great idea, and I'd love to see him given a chance to shine in a role like this one but where he's given free reign to go nutso.

The Last Stand is not up to Schwarzenegger's best, but it's a decent sized step in the right direction after some of his misfires he made before quitting acting. Hopefully for his next film Schwarzenegger can clearly take the lead, but for now it's just nice to see him in a pretty good action movie again. I've made The Last Stand sound worse than it is, because it is an entertaining film, it just has too many competing elements and a bit more restrain than I like from a Schwarzenegger vehicle. There are plenty of quality action set pieces, and it is a throwback to the glory days of 80s action, I just wish it was a throwback more to Commando than to Conan the Barbarian.
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