THE LAST STAND (Kim Jee-woon, 2013)
Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) experienced more than enough danger and
action for a lifetime as a Los Angeles narcotics cop, which is why he
gave it up to become sheriff of a sleepy southwest Arizona border town.
With its postcard-perfect Main Street, Sommerton Junction is the kind
of place where a local farmer delivers fresh milk to the diner and
strangers stopping for a bite to eat stand out. As almost everyone has
left town to watch the high school football team play in the state
championship, it promises to be another quiet weekend for Ray and his
three bored deputies in THE LAST STAND.
drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from the FBI
despite the high level of security and secrecy surrounding his prison
transfer in Las Vegas. Cortez’s subordinates supply him with a
supercharged Corvette boosted from an auto show. The one-time race car
driver speeds toward Mexico with an agent (Genesis Rodriguez) as his
hostage. Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) and his team eventually
determine that Cortez plans to cross over in Sommerton but are
incapable of catching up to him in time. It falls upon Ray and his
ragtag crew, which includes a prisoner (Rodrigo Santoro) and a local
eccentric with an arsenal (Johnny Knoxville), to block Cortez’s road to
eases into his full-fledged return to the movies after his terms as
California governor. Like an athlete shaking the rust off after time
away from his sport, he warms up with routine police work and
self-effacing humor in THE LAST STAND’s table-setting first half. When
the film smoothly shifts into non-stop combat, Schwarzenegger turns on
the charisma and brute force that made him one of the biggest action
stars in the world. His corny one-liners seem more obligatory than
amusing, but despite getting up there in years, the star’s
broad-shouldered brawn is still built for manhandling bad guys. He may
not be the superhuman he was in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but when
Schwarzenegger is wearing a badge, he can credibly claim to be the
roughest, toughest lawman on screen.
its detriment THE LAST STAND doesn’t provide Schwarzenegger with a
worthy antagonist. While the small scale of Cortez’s scheme is
refreshing in an age of action films with outlandishly high stakes, he
doesn’t do much, mainly because he’s isolated behind the wheel of a car
most of the time. Cortez is also less imposing or funny than his
henchman Burrell (Peter Stormare), who wallows in his sleaziness and
disregard for those who get in his way.
the bullets are flying director Kim Jee-woon shoots the barely
contained chaos with a clear understanding of physical space often
neglected in the hypercut, CGI-heavy spectacles of today. At its core
THE LAST STAND is a throwback film, an old-fashioned western updated
with 20th and 21st century weaponry and vehicles. The lengthy gun battle
in the middle of Sommerton delivers the simple pleasures of watching
heroes and villains exchange fire and trying to outflank one another.
The subsequent car chase through a cornfield and hand-to-hand fight
thrill with the one-on-one showdowns between machines and men.
streamlined ticking clock plot pushes THE LAST STAND along during its
pokier moments, and the supporting characters, like Luis Guzman as the
comic relief deputy and Harry Dean Stanton as a crotchety farmer, liven
up the wait for the face-off with the bad guys. At a time when most
cinematic action stars receive significant special effects enhancement,
if not existing entirely in computers, it’s nice to have Schwarzenegger
back and practical effects showcased. THE LAST STAND doesn’t find him
in peak form, but it’ll suffice as a sturdy exhibition of his talents.