Review: 'The Last Stand' Is an Enthralling Bridge to Former Action
by Jeremy Kirk
January 18, 2013
"You give us immigrants a bad name," says Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Mexican drug lord villain in The Last Stand, the Governator's latest revival to the big screen of bang-bang-shoot-em-ups. He's not alone, and the import Hollywood decided to take a crack at this fast action is Kim Ji-woon. Best known for the spirited The Good, the Bad, and the Weird and the sadistic I Saw the Devil, Kim seems ideal for the amount of ludicrous fun meant to be had with The Last Stand, and with a cast of jaunty bullet-flingers bouncing around a post-modern Western, it's about as much fun as you can have in theaters currently.
Schwarzenegger plays Sheriff Ray Owens, a former LAPD cop who just wants to retire keeping the peace in Sommerton Junction. The most heated the town gets is when Owens has to crack down on local Weird, played by Johnny Knoxville, when he's firing .357's into slabs of meat. But when a kingpin breaks free of the FBI and begins heading for the border in a top-of-the-line Corvette ZR1 - We're told no helicopters can keep up with its 200 MPH topping speed - Owens must find a way of keeping the peace still. That means guns, and with the number of henchmen helping the kingpin, that means a lot of bullets.
And lots of each Kim Ji-woon brings to the table. With the 2013 surge of South Korean filmmakers finding their ways into American theaters, it's no wonder Schwarzenegger's return to headline a violent actioner is all the buzz about The Last Stand. That's a shame when you consider the amount of joy and impact Kim puts into every one of his films. Even the somber and beautiful A Bittersweet Life - Possibly the best action film of the last decade - found ways in making us smile between the moments of genuine drama. Kim, along with fan favorites Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho, all have Hollywood films releasing this year, but it's this first horse out of the gate that seems to have its focus in the red. The Last Stand is a whiz-bang of an action movie, kicking into high gear right from its opening joke to its kickstarter of a jail break sequence. The cars and bullets fly fast, but what else would you expect here?
It's only when Schwarzenegger's Sheriff Owens and the sleepy community of Sommerton Junction are introduced that we see the film's more playful, some would call it lighthearted, side. Schwarzenegger complains about being old while wearing boat shoes. His deputies; Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, and Zach Gilford all play the innocent, hear-nothing/see-nothing game well, even when Kim's film gets violently bloody. Kim, not satisfied with blood and brain matter slapping against the wall, embraces the ridiculous and the brutal, gleefully tossing body parts onto character actors and joyfully shooting Knoxville and Schwarzenegger as they joyfully shoot bad guys with a Gatling gun. Imagine the joy on set that day.
With each quip, each spent bullet, Schwarzenegger comes back to life from his former glory. He doesn't move as fast, and that final hand-to-hand fight with its slow fists and shaky knees has you craving more speed a la the corn-field car chase that preceded it directly. The action star has long since passed the torch to such hard-hitters as Dwayne Johnson, but that doesn't mean he can't come back and kick a little tail when he feels like it. That seems to be exactly what's going on here, Schwarzenegger seemingly having the time of his life walking through the dusty Sommerton Junction and glaring menacingly at Peter Stormare, who, you guessed it, plays a bad guy.
Kim Ji-woon's film is not without its obligatory cliches. Forest Whitaker doesn't do his lazy eye any favors looking at all those computer monitors, and Rodrigo Santro as a former veteran who begins the film locked up and pining for Alexander's Deputy Torrance. These are cliches in name only, never oppressive in their handling and often buying right into the film's hokier moments. Kim Ji-woon, and Schwarznegger for that matter, have their hearts set on hokey, and it's difficult to blame them. With this many squibs being tossed around set, how could they not hit something?
The Last Stand is a reminder that Schwarzenegger, as rickety and frayed a bridge to the action films of old as he is, can still pack a mean punch, and it leave it to a filmmaker as enthralling and as comprehensive as Kim Ji-woon to lead a new age of imported, Asian filmmakers to American success. It's always a welcome surprise when Hollywood imports talent and not ideas. The outcome is always twice as rewarding, and that's not even counting Gangnum Style. Seriously, I'm not counting that.
Jeremy's Rating: 8 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 8 Comments
I was afraid this was going to be very generic and held back, Im glad they went with the Hard R gorefest.
Cody W on Jan 18, 2013
It's Gangnam Style, not Gangnum...
Lagoya on Jan 18, 2013
I loved it. Pure AHNOLD!!!! action. Glad they went with an R rating. Get to the Choppah!!!!!
Tyler Bannock on Jan 18, 2013
I couldn't wait for this! watching it in two hours! One of my favorite directors with an oldie but goodie Arnold. Pumped
Franklin Carpio on Jan 18, 2013
"Who is my daddy and what does he do?"
PBGray on Jan 18, 2013
8 out of 10?? I'm actually going to enjoy this? I don't believe you 😉
David Banner on Jan 19, 2013
Watched it last night and I loved it! It was fun, funny, and some of the action was straight bad ass! I am so super stoked that Arnold is back! If this is the action the directors you mentioned in the article are bringing to the states, I can't wait to see what else is coming out!
Crazy Legs on Jan 19, 2013
The worst movie of the year so far. I know it's January but I feel safe to say this will probably be worst for at least a half a year to being the worst of the year. It was simply absurd. It was filled with ideas that didn't follow through. They couldn't catch a supercharged corvette? A helicopter was too slow? The roads didn't wind or there was no traffic so the villain basically had a straight shot to the Mexican border? Puh-lease! It wasn't a super car with armor and corvettes not modified are gas-guzzlers and this one they couldn't catch because it was too fast but let's not bother that it has to stop for gas. How about when the magnet picked up the van holding the villain. Yeah let's not just go over to the vehicle and kill the guy operating it in the yard over and turn off the crane to let the villain escape. They just stood there watching him being hoisted away when the crane with the magnet was in the lot right next to them.
Sacramento on Jan 20, 2013
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