THE LAST STAND
***1/2 (out of 5)
January 18, 2013
Arnold Schwarzenegger as RAY OWENS
Johnny Knoxville as LEWIS DINKUM
Luis Guzman as MIKE FIGUEROLA
Jaimie Alexander as SARAH TORRANCE
Rodrigo Santoro as FRANK MARTINEZ
Genesis Rodriguez as AGENT ELLEN RICHARDS
Eduardo Noriega as GABRIEL CORTEZ
Forest Whitaker as AGNET JOHN BANNISTER
Peter Stormare as BURRELL
Directed by: Jee-woon Kim
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I am a child of the 80s, and I shamelessly embrace the memory and fun of the pop culture of that decade. While I may not be wearing a pair of parachute pants or a polo shirt with the collar turned up now, I still adore the movies from that era. It was the time when I was watching movies for pure fun and no other reason.
Growing up in the 80s, it was impossible to miss the iconic presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in films. I was a fan before he became the powerhouse action star whose movies were destined to become the biggest ones of the year. For every “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and “Total Recall,” there were smaller, more modestly budgeted but still fun films like “Commando” and “Red Heat.”
In fact, Schwarzenegger really only made three types of movies over the years. He did the softer comedies, including family films like “Kindergarten Cop” but also including the slightly edgier but still safe “Twins.” He also did the aforementioned blockbusters, which included “Conan the Barbarian” and “The Terminator” early on but exploded with the one-two-three punch of “Predator,” “Total Recall” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” as we moved into the 90s.
What was forgotten in the 90s as Schwarzengger became one of the most bankable names in Hollywood was the smaller action films of the mid-80s. As his career waned with films like “Collateral Damage,” “End of Days” and “The Sixth Day,” this seemed to be a lost art (and honestly, those movies might have been remembered more fondly if they didn’t have to live up to his previous successes).
“The Last Stand” is Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen in a starring role since “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (a movie I unabashedly love but realize it’s never going to be given much respect). And with “The Last Stand,” it is a return to old-school, gritty action form for Schwarzenegger, having more in common with “Commando,” “Red Heat” and “Raw Deal” than with much of his filmography.
The movie tells the story of a small-town sheriff named Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), who moved to a slower environment after seeing too much bloodshed in L.A. However, an escaped drug kingpin is high-tailing it down to Mexico, and he plans to cross the border just south of Owens’ town. After some townspeople are killed, Owens and his deputies take it upon themselves to stand in the drug lord’s way.
At its heart, “The Last Stand” is a modern western, with a sheriff trying to clean up his town before the bad guy actually runs in. It’s filled with all the glorious western cliches, including gunmen, townsfolk full of piss and vinegar, as well as thugs (including the lead crony, played by Peter Stormare with the most convoluted and thoroughly unidentifiable accent I’ve ever heard) on the bad guy’s side and honorable deputies on the sheriff’s.
The weakest part of the film is the opening act, which features some two-dimensional characterization (though this is to be expected, considering what the film is trying to be). The plot also seems to stagger around and take a little bit too long to actually get to the point.
The B-story of the drug lord escaping provides the needed action in the early parts of the film, but led by Forest Whitaker in a phoned-in performance, it feels too much like an episode of television with a big budget than a Schwarzenegger movie.
Still, while it takes too long for the final conflict to happen, it eventually does, and this entire multi-scene sequence keeps the movie exciting. With plenty of gunplay, explosions and solid action, the end of the film is the strongest part.
Schwarzenegger plays old in this film, and it’s earned. But he plays off his age well and proves that he can still headline one hell of an action movie.