Directed by: Jee-woon Kim
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Luis Guzman, Forest Whitaker
There are many fans of old school action films who yearn for an action hero that’s a guys guy, not a metro sexual overly young guy who uses more hair product than most women. We’re talking someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and even Bruce Willis. There are current actors that could and do pull it off such as Daniel Craig, but more often than not we’re getting Twilight rejects in PG-13 films with no heart for the action genre. This is why films like The Expendables and its sequel are popular. No they aren’t setting box office records but they are successful in the genre in which they reside. As a fan of real action films you can easily start to feel like only these old school actors are capable of bringing us an old school guys action movie. The fans were all looking to the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to film, a man that could bring us the movies we once loved.
The Last Stand is the first in a trio of films from the one time blockbuster star as he returns to film after finishing his rocky trip into politics. I was excited to see him back on the big screen. Even at 65 years old he’s still a burly dude that seems like he can pull off some properly executed action. There are problems with The Last Stand though. The first problem is that the marketing for the film was poorly handled. This should have been promoted as Arnie’s big return to what he’s once did best. That approach was used a bit for Expendables 2 but honestly that wasn’t a Schwarzenegger film. He was great in it but his role wasn’t huge. So the marketing was botched.
Maybe Arnold decided to do this film because at first blush the script feels like a truly old school action film, and it is. The unfortunate thing about the script and the movie that was made from it is that it was just a little too full of plot holes and dumb decisions. When you look back at a movie like Commando it was dumb yes but it was dumb fun. The story was a simple one of revenge and rescue. The story was streamlined and fast paced enough that you just soaked in the fun and were able fairly easily suspend disbelief. It still works even now. The Last stand though is a little slower in its first act so you are given time to settle into the story and invest in the characters. Twists that are supposed to be twists become obvious way to early and some characters just seem irritating, mostly Johnny Knoxville’s character. Luis Guzman on the other hand was great to see back in a role that he played a lot in old school action films. If the film had just featured Arnold and Luis it probably would have been much better.
Arnold plays a hardened L.A. cop who moved to a tiny town in Arizona to become Sheriff after some terrible events in California. When a notorious Mexican gangster steals a prototype hot rod and decides to drive to Mexico right through Arnold’s little town he has to gather his buddies and stop the gangster. This guy could have escaped the United States in a huge number of more simple and effective means but his ego forces him to try and make a run for it in this car. Forest Whitaker plays a throw away role of an FBI agent who is chasing the gangster.
Some of the action is well shot here by director Jee-woon Kim who is probably most notable for directing the original and awesome Tale of Two Sisters. The drama and non-action scenes don’t flow well though and the film just lacks some energy in spite of Arnold being great on screen. Even the stupid one liners that are generally acceptably stupid just aren’t effective or even humorous. This script needed work and it needed a director that could execute something more fun and exciting. It’s funny that in the 80’s Sylvester Stallone sort of always trailed Arnold Schwarzenegger as an action star but now toward the end of their careers Stallone’s work at least seems to have more heart and passion behind it. Schwarzenegger still has the passion to carry a film and that was great to see. I just hope he gets something worth his charisma before he just fades from view.