When a drug kingpin escapes from federal custody and heads for the Mexican border, it’s up to a small town sheriff and his deputies to stop the man before he escapes.
The Last Stand is Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s return to film in a starring role. While he did appear in The Expendables is a minor role, and The Expendables 2 more significantly, this marks his first starring appearance since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. And let me say, Arnold, you have been missed. Not only is this an extremely fun action film, it is also one of the best he has appeared in, trumped only by Conan the Barbarian, True Lies, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Yes, it is that good.
Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a small town officer and he’s content that way. When a drug kingpin, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes federal custody and heads for Mexico and freedom, his route takes him through Ray’s town. And Ray is not going to let him escape.
I could go into more detail about the plot of The Last Stand, but there really is no reason. It is actually a simple plot not burdened by excess subplots or excessive character development. What you have is a simple action film plot that does what it does well. You are not going to walk out of the theater trying to figure out who’s who or who’s the goody guy and bad guy. It is all very clear cut. What the film lacks in subtlety and character development it makes up for in style and old fashioned Schwarzenegger goodness. This is a return to form for Schwarzenegger, and his presence has been missed in the cinema.
When I walked into the theater this morning to watch the film, I was worried that I wouldn’t like it. I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. And it didn’t. It exceeded them. Directed by Kim Ji-woon (The Good, The Bad, The Weird, I Saw the Devil), making his English-language directorial debut, The Last Stand is a stylish action film and puts Kim Ji-woon on the American radar as a director to watch. While I am not particularly into Asian cinema, this film is strong enough to get me to possibly look into his other works. It certainly will have me keeping an eye on him and his next feature.
Of course, everyone is wondering how Arnold is. I can say that he is very good. Sure, using the word ‘acting’ when talking about Schwarzenegger is stretching the definition a bit, but he does a fine job as a small town sheriff who is well liked and isn’t going to back down (hence the title, The Last Stand). The film never dwells too long on his past. It is the present that is important.
One of the great things about the film is that it is not a one man show. Schwarzenegger is backed up by a pretty solid supporting cast including the great Luis Guzman (The Bone Collector, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island), Jamie Alexander (Rest Stop, Thor), Forrest Whitaker (Platoon, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), Peter Stormare (Fargo, 8mm), Rodrigo Santoro (300, Redbelt), and Johnny Knoxville (Jackass, The Dukes of Hazzard). This makes the film less a one man killing bazillions show and more of an ensemble piece. It is a welcome change of pace for a Schwarzenegger picture.
What was surprising was how funny the film is. While there are some one liners dropped by Schwarzy, the humor is usually more from sight gags and explosions of bad guys. I found myself chuckling quite a few times and outright laughing at others. This serves to keep the film solely in action movie territory and not get overly serious. And it works.
With the combination of humor, action, and the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I cannot recommend The Last Stand more highly. It is a highly entertaining piece of action filmmaking and a great comeback for Arnold. Not only does it make me excited for Schwarzenegger’s forthcoming roles, but it also has me excited to see what the director has in store for us next.
*** out of ****