THE LAST STAND Review

You get what you pay for with The Last Stand and though that may be a generic movie, it is a generic action movie in top form. It earns this reputation largely due to the fact it has the man who defined the action genre at its center. It is a good thing Arnold Schwarzenegger chose this as his welcome back film otherwise it wouldn't be nearly as fun or even been made in the first place I imagine. There has been a good amount of positive press going towards these kind of throwback films to 80's no-brainer B-movies that shoot first and think later. Schwarzenegger has been featured in both Expendable films and though he makes his grand return with this one he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon as he will re-team with pal Sylvester Stallone again later this year in The Tomb. As the first shoot, think later train of thought plays fast and loose with the standard script structure allowing plausibility and logic to fly right out the window, none of it matters as the reason people even go to see a movie like this is not for the insightful story or original storytelling methods but instead to see things and people blow up. There is no shortage of that here as director Jee-woon Kim makes his English-language debut with a film that mixes in tons of over-the-top violence with a cartoonish style that never meshes as well as it should to find a balance in tone. I haven't seen any of Kim's previous films, but despite his lack of story to work with and his tendencies to sway between gritty and silly the guy knows how to utilize his star and he plays that angle nicely. He helps the iconic action star prove he really might be back even if not as many people were waiting on his return as he expected.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville in The Last Stand.
The slapdash effort of a script tells the story of a high profile drug cartel known as Gabriel Cortez (yes, that unoriginal) who is being transported out of Las Vegas in the dead of night and dupes FBI chief Forest Whitaker by escaping from his clutches. In light of the escape several of Cortez's goons have been setting up shop in every little town that stands between he and the Mexican border. The last town just before Cortez can cross that line is fittingly where our hero presides as Sheriff. Schwarzenegger as Ray Owens is simply happy to have a weekend off when the majority of the town leaves for the local high school football game that is apparently really far away. With the town all but deserted Ray takes it upon himself to have some alone time and leave his small but dependable staff on their own. When milk isn't delivered though, things get strange in a small town and one thing leads to another and before we know it Ray has discovered Cortez's cronies in his own town led by a wonderfully maniacal Peter Stormare. Once he discovers Stormare and gang he is notified by Whitaker's John Bannister that Cortez is on his way. Jumping back into action Ray rounds up a rag tag bunch that includes his fellow officers Mike (Luis Guzman) and Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) as well as Sarah's ex-lover and current inmate Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) and the local loon who just happens to have a stockpile of guns and bullets and has always wanted to be a part of the police force (Johnny Knoxville). You can guess where things go from here, but hey, at least it is an entertaining time watching things go exactly where you know they will from here.

As things progress the dialogue becomes less audible and the bullets fly more frequently. There is truly not much more to be said for the film other than there are several elements that fare much better than others. The biggest drawback for me was how long it actually took to get into the meat of the action. There is plenty of time even before Cortez makes a run for it where the film is trying to set up all the jokes and details that are so obviously going to come back around later, but it is also attempting to create a world for us as an audience to get wrapped up in. And while this is a valiant effort and a commendable thing for Kim to try and incorporate into a brainless actioner, but ultimately ends up feeling unnecessary for those very reasons.

The Last Stand is a film that stands on its action sequences and how well they are executed. While Kim overshoots his genre film in slight ambition he is also able to anchor his action sequences with fun circumstances that have you chewing your popcorn in excitement. Whether it be placing his star and the energy that is Knoxville in a bus and having them machine gun through those that have invaded their town or having Schwarzenegger chase Cortez through a corn field in equally souped up cars that is visually arresting and enthralling as anything else that has presented prior. This final climactic chase sequence solidifies the film as nothing more than a fun time that ends up delivering what we feel it promised. Sure, the whole thing might be made up of cliches, plot points from a handful of other films, and obvious jokes but the film is so consistent once it gets going that it is impossible to deny the enthusiasm it has in itself and dares us not to have the same thing for it.