The Last Stand depends entirely on Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s ability to carry a fairly formulaic action flick on his shoulders. Luckily, he’s still got great timing and charm to spare. This is a fun film.
Here’s a trailer:
Released January 18, 2013
Written by Andrew Knauer
Directed by Kim Jee-Woon
Starring Jaimie Alexander, Christiana Leucas, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Luis Guzman, Zach Gilford, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Eduardo Noriega, and Genesis Rodriguez
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Ray Owens (Schwarzeneggar) is a former LAPD vice cop who left the big city scene after a traumatic experience, moving to Sommerton Junction to become the Sheriff of the tiny border town. He has three deputies, Sarah (Alexander), Mike (Guzman), and Jerry (Gilford), and lives a fairly peaceful life.
Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) is the FBI agent in charge of transferring a terrifying drug cartel kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Noriega) from a holding cell to another location. But Cortez escapes custody in an imaginative way, taking Bannister’s fellow agent Ellen Richards (Rodriguez) hostage in the process. Now Cortez is in a souped up, faster-than-a-helicopter car, heading for the border, living his dream of being a race-car driver and Bannister can’t catch up, because Cortez has planned for everything the FBI might do.
Meanwhile, Owens is dealing with two suspicious truckers who made his spidey-sense tingle. One of these is Burrell (Stormare), who it turns out is working for Cortez and is making a way for the drug kingpin to cross the border right outside Sommerton Junction. When Owens sends his deputies Sarah and Jerry to figure out what’s happening on a farm outside of town, things hit the fan. Then Bannister calls Owens and tells the tired sheriff that there’s a bad guy on the way and that Owens needs to get out of the way or face death.
But Owens has reason to fight and he recruits a couple of locals, one of whom is a gun nut (Knoxville), to help batten down the town and prepare for war with Cortez and his baddies. Luckily, the town is mostly empty due to an out of town football game.
This, of course, leads to an explosive showdown that involves fast cars, lots of guns, and appropriately timed zingers.
Starting with what The Last Stand gets right, it makes sense to discuss Arnie. He’s getting on in years and is simply nowhere near as powerful-looking as he used to be. But he’s still got a square jaw and his acting has only improved. It helps that the movie makers accept his age and slowed-down state openly and use it to enhance the scenes where he is required to be physical. In his fights, he doesn’t depend on speed or special moves: he uses brute strength and sheer meanness and determination to win.
So Arnie is still a win due to his charm, presence, and simple professional action hero resume.
Add to Arnie a pretty good supporting cast who has to fill out the formulaic roles as well as possible. Zach Gilford is particularly enjoyable as the deputy with his eyes on a big-city cop prize, with Jaimie Alexander delivering a performance that truly helps the audience see these small-town folks as totally over their heads in their conflict with sophisticated, ruthless, and better-armed bad guys.
Luis Guzman could use some better material, as he keeps ending up playing something of a goofy sidekick, but at least he’s good at it. Whitaker also does well as a frustrated, growing-desperate agent who can’t figure out why he can’t catch the drug kingpin.
Then there’s the writing. Setting aside rather convenient timing issues when it comes to geography and distances, the film builds the tension well, allowing viewers to get a feeling for at least the principal characters, as well as to gain an appropriate distaste for Cortez, the bad guy. Cortez’s escape is creative and Sheriff Owens’ group is also creative and true to their characters in their attempts to stop this bad guy. Owens does as much as he can within the law and only goes all Terminator on these guys when they force his hand.
If for no other reason than to see Arnie back in, literally, action, The Last Stand is worth a watch. Action fans will particularly like the movie, as there is plenty of eye candy with the ultra-fast car, some nifty fight scenes, and heroism all around.
Content warnings: plenty of salty language and violence, some of it bloody
Writing: 4 Acting: 4 Overall: 3.5
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