“Twelve thousand Mexicans cross over every day, and you have a problem letting one cross back” — the villain of the new Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Last Stand, makes a compelling argument. His only problem: the former Governator just ain’t listening. Long-term political hiatus for an action man puts debates out of question, I suppose.
And it’s a good thing he did. Part B-movie, part modernized Western (re: John Wayne’s Rio Bravo), featuring a partly-wheezing Mr. Schwarzenegger, The Last Stand, a nightmare to gun-control activists America-wide, is fun — but only because the screenplay by Andrew Knauer is seriously proud of its pedigree.
As a first-time produced writer, Mr. Knauer’s screenplay shapes the production up on its strengths, rather than the conventions of their heritage (for example: even Mr. Schwarzenegger’s one-liners, evident here and there, slide into a comfy back seat; they didn’t have to over-exert themselves).
Mr. Schwarzenegger is a world-weary Sheriff of the small border-town of Sommerton Junction whose residents leave him, and his three deputies (Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander and Zach Gilford), in-charge when they hop over to another town to root for their football team. Later that night, a cartel boss (Eduardo Noriega) springs from the FBI (with Genesis Rodriguez’s field agent, as hostage) and zips towards Sommerton Junction in a supercharged Corvette, where his men are erecting a bridge to Mexico.
As the villain speeds across the highway lit by his Corvette (which is faster than any helicopter, we’re told), the film shifts gears back to develop characters, just so we can grieve for them when they bite the dust. The connection, though, is only partial, because most of the characters — including Peter Stromare’s gun-for-hire mercenary leader — are throwaways (the film also stars: Johnny Knoxville as the obligatory-nut, illegal arms dealer, Rodrigo Santoro as an ex-Military sniper, Forrest Whitaker and Korean actor Daniel Henney.)
The climatic action, mostly live-action with CGI explosions, is about one-third the length of The Last Stand’s 100 odd minute run-time. It is also when the film is at its flattest.
Still, Mr. Schwarzenegger is an action star. And along with the film’s two other stars — the Dabang black Corvette ZR1, and a hot-red Camaro ZL1, who crash and rumble through a corn-field — he is big enough to save The Last Stand from B-movie tedium.
Regardless of his clichéd backstory as an ex-tactical elite, Ray Owen is Mr. Schwarzenegger’s most defined characters in the last decade (considering that his last full-featured role was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003, there’s not much here to write about anyway).
From Mr. Schwarzenegger’s half-lumbering, figure, we know he’s a limited commodity of a dying stock, now out on its last hurrah. In the next few weeks, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s film will be relegating screens to Sylvester Stallone’s daddy-on-rampage actioner Bullet to the Head, and then Bruce Willis will have A Good Day to Die Hard (I am certain Liam Neeson fits into this group somewhere).
I believe the time is for the wrinkly-old, to be the new-new; at least until we can find their replacements. Expendable, they still ain’t.
Directed by Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil), an extraordinary and rare Asian-import whose grip on the western-aesthetic is better than a majority of local Hollywood directors.
“The Last Stand” is rated R. For an action-action movie, made-up of car crashes and bullet holes, it’s quite family friendly.
Produced by di Bonaventura Pictures; Released by Lionsgate and HCK.