Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in his first major starring movie role since 2003 in Lionsgate’s The Last Stand. Does this film mark the triumphant return of the Governator to the big screen or should he have stayed in politics?
Ray Owens is the sheriff of the small town of Sommerton, AZ. There’s not much to do in town but handle disturbance calls and rescue cats from trees. It may not seem much, but it is a relaxing alternative from his past as a narcotics detective for the LAPD. Ray left after a botched arrest got him shot five times and left several of his fellow officers dead. Today is Ray’s day off.
Meanwhile in Las Vegas, an FBI task force, lead by Agent John Bannister, is about to transport the world’s most dangerous drug kingpin, Gabriel Cortez to serve the rest of his life in a federal prison. The plan is to extradite him in the middle of night with no reporters or anyone else knowing. But things don’t go as planed as the FBI convoy comes under heavy gunfire and Cortez’s prisoner transport van is hijacked. Cortex makes a daring escape in a super charged Chevy Corvette ZR1 that has over 1000 horse power under the hood. It is so quick that it can even out run helicopters. His goal is to drive as fast as he can to the Mexican border while breaking through several police road blocks.
With no other plans of action, Agent Bannister figures Cortez is either going to pass through to Mexico via a brand new border crossing or over a ravine in Sheriff Owen’s town of Sommerton. But Ray has his hands full as he is investigating a suspicious murder. After hearing the news of Cortez’s escape, he knows this isn’t a mere coincidence. Together with his deputies and a local gun nut, Ray prepares his town for a border town showdown.
For nearly a decade, there has not been an Arnold Schwarzenegger film in theaters, not counting bit parts and cameos (The Expendables 1 & 2 and Around the World in 80 Days). The past ten years he has spent being the Governor of California and fornicating with the help. But personal life aside, everyone can admit that Arnold is the number one box office action star of all time. When I heard Arnold would indeed “be back,” I was excited. Predator, Commando, The Running Man, and of course the Terminator trilogy are some of my favorite movies of all time, and I’m not just talking about “Schwarzenegger” flicks.
So is The Last Stand the Governator’s triumphant return? Well it’s a return, but I wouldn’t really call it that much of a triumph. I’m not calling it horrible, but at least it’s not Jingle All The Way terrible. The film is filled with so many plot holes and basically makes any type of law enforcement agency look like they are headed by Barney Fife of Mayberry. As someone who works for a police agency, some of the scenes were cringe worthy. Hell, the opening scene is of a State Trooper eating a donut. This was a bit disconcerting, because at the beginning of the screener I attended, Arnold and Luis Guzman addressed the crowd and dedicated the film to the law enforcement members in attendance.
Now you are probably thinking I hated the film, and I didn’t, just some some parts of it. My first complaint is Forrest Whitaker. Now don’t get me wrong, I love him as an actor, but his character, Agent Bannister just has his head so far up his ass. He is in charge of transporting the world’s largest kingpin of the Mexican drug cartel and he lets him get away because the bad guys use a large magnet on a crane that reminded me of an Acme style Wile E. Coyote trap. Second problem is the bad guy himself. Eduardo Noriega plays kingpin, Gabriel Cortez. He isn’t menacing. He isn’t threatening. He’s just a rich guy in a fast car. There is no character development in his background. We are just told he is worse than Manuel Noriega, and the audience is just supposed to believe that. The film really stretches the concept of “suspension of disbelief.” And what I mean by that is the film is just filled with moments of coincidence. At moments the film just seemed like Con-Air with out the airplane. FBI Agents, Swat Teams, and State Trooper road blocks can’t stop the bad guys, but an old sheriff and his county bumpkin deputies can? Lastly, as someone who hates obvious product placements in films (Read my Alex Cross review), this film has more Chevys in it than all three Transformers films combined. The FBI guys drive Suburbans. The bad guy drives a Corvette. During the showdown gunfight one of the bad guys hides behind a Volt. And the final scene is Arnold going after the bad guy in a Camaro. Now of course I love the American auto industry, I had two Chevys parked in my driveway, but I just find it slightly offensive when the subliminal advertising isn’t so subtle.
So now that I got that all off my chest, what did I love? Everything else. Plot holes and goofy characters aside, it’s a fun movie. It’s an Arnold flick. It has punches and explosions and bullets and car chases and of course one liners that only Arnold can deliver.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Sheriff Ray Owens. He likes the quiet life of the small border town of Sommerton, AZ compared to the blood and murder of his former LA narcotics job. However he is a bit of a joke in the town. No one takes him serious. Even the town mayor throws his car keys at him like a valet as he leaves for a championship football game. The only people that respect Ray are his deputies: Sarah Torrance portrayed by Jamie Alexander, Mike Figuerola played by Luis Guzman, and Jerry Bailey played by Zach Gilford. Deputy Bailey looks up to Ray so much he even requests his permission and recommendation to transfer to the LAPD. Cops and bad guys aside, the true star of the show and highlight of the whole film is Johnny Knoxville as Lewis Dinkum, the town’s local crazy guy. Lewis runs a gun “museum” out of his barn filled with heavy weaponry and ammunition. This moment of coincidence allows the local Sheriff and deputies to be armed to the teeth when the bad guys invade. When Knoxville is on screen, the entire audience laughed their asses off. It’s not hard to admit this, but without Knoxville, this movie would have sunk like the Titanic. Knoxville even has the most hilarious and rewarding kill in the entire movie.
The Last Stand marks the American directorial debut from Korean filmmaker, Jee-woon Kim. His previous movies include Doomsday Book, I Saw the Devil, and The Good, The Bad, The Weird. What he provided was spectacular action sequences, car crashes, and a fun factor that keeps you entertained even with the film’s flaws. He’s like a Korean version of Michael Bay or Tony Scott.
The Last Stand is like a pre-season football game. While it’s fun to see your favorite athletes in action after a long hiatus, you know deep down it’s really just a practice session. That’s what this film seemed to me in relation to Schwarzenegger’s career as he warms up for the next chapter in his life. It’s nice to see the big guy back on screen, but you can tell he still needs to dust off some of the cobwebs. But let’s face it, you are not seeing a Schwarzenegger movie for Academy Award worthy screenwriting and acting, you are going to escape reality, eat popcorn, and have a fantastic time. The Last Stand will definitely do that for you.
In Theaters: January 18, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes
Rating: R (for strong bloody violence throughout, and language)
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez
Genre: Thriller, Action/Adventure, Crime
Official Site: http://thelaststandfilm.com