The Last Stand marks the return to the big screen for one of Hollywood’s biggest stars; Arnold Schwarzenegger. The former Governor of California, at one point in his illustrious career, was the highest paid actor on the planet. Stepping out of movies to pursue his political career, Arnie, like his Expendables and Planet Hollywood alumnus Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, was once the action-man of movies. These days Hollywood has moved on, preferring their heroes more identifiable than ripped with bulging biceps. But that hasn’t stopped them, nowadays they play on their OAP status and no more so than the former Terminator in The Last Stand.
When deadly cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Cortez) breaks out of federal custody he jumps in a souped-up sports car and heads for the Mexican boarder. With the FBI, led by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), struggling to catch him they call ahead to all boarder towns to be on the lookout. With mysterious goings on in his sleepy town of Sommerton Junction, Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) begins to suspect they may be the final stop before Cortez makes his perfect getaway. Not on his watch though and, rounding up the troops, Owens sets about fortifying his town against the inevitable onslaught.
The Last Stand is a typical Arnie action movie. It’s loud, brash, over the top and yet never stops to worry about plot. Indeed there are moments when it tries to find too much character as opposed to just cutting to the chase. That said, it manages to remain an entertaining piece of forgetful action stupidity.
Korean director Kim Ji-woon is no stranger to slapstick, action mayhem having previously delivered The Good, The Bad, The Weird. Here he’s slightly tapered by a script that never quite finds the balance between hard-hitting action and genuine laughs. The middle section of the film gets bogged down in the death of a deputy when more fun should be forthcoming. Thankfully the mourning is over pretty quick and we’re on to the main event.
When the bullets start flying the film kicks into gear. Ji-woon’s direction is brilliantly frenetic, letting bullets and clouds of blood coat the screen. Each punch and bullet hit has genuine impact and it only ever lets up to punctuate the proceedings with the occasional gag.
While some of the cast, Knoxville in particular, are trying to play the clown, they all wilt under the shadow of the colossus that is Schwarzenegger. For all his tough-guy routine it’s easily forgotten that, while he might not be the world’s best actor, the delivery is still painfully wooden at times, his comic timing is never less than perfect. Re-watch True Lies and you begin to see how naturally funny Arnie is, whether it’s by design or otherwise. Here is no exception, with the Austrian Oak fully embracing his aging ways as he utters a back-aching groan followed by “I’m old”. Beside him Luis Guzman brings some frumpy funny while Peter Stormare is on typically boo-hiss villainy duty.
It might be flawed but if nothing else The Last Stand proves that, in spite of his age, Arnold Schwarzenegger is still a powerful force to be reckoned with. Suffice to say; Arnie is Back!