The Last Stand

Schwarzenegger finally makes his return to action cinema in a starring role.  After a decade or so of flabby beach photos in celebrity dirt rags many likely did not feel Arnold had it in him to return to action in proper form.  His cameos in The Expendables were amusing, but were really nothing more than riffs on his past roles (then again, the entirety of both Expendables movies pretty much is that, as mindlessly entertaining as they are).  But the trailers for this looked promising, and combined with the fact that this was directed by the same guy who did I Saw the Devil (Jee-woon Kim) I had high hopes this movie would deliver. 

Well, I have to say The Last Stand turned out pretty darn OK.  Schwarzenegger was never going to make another Predator, Terminator 1/2, or Conan The Barbarian or other “golden period” movie, but this is certainly better than some of his later films prior to becoming the “Governator”.  One thing I liked about it was that they never try to pretend that Arnold isn’t 60+ years old.  Instead they use it as part of the story and go from there.  I liked that.

Action wise I was happy to see a modern day movie shot in a way that I could discern exactly what was happening at all times.  There’s nothing as cool as what you’ll see in I Saw the Devil (sadly), but I think what Jee-woon was going for was to make what he saw was an American made 80’s style action film without a whiff of pretentiousness, and in that regard the movie succeeds.  There’s some great action in this movie: bloody gun fights, the car scenes were pretty damn cool with a souped up 1000 horse power Corvette ripping it up through the country side and pulling all sorts of crazy maneuvers, and even some hard hitting hand to hand.   I liked all of that too.

What I didn’t like was use of CG gore.  I’m pretty sure there were at least some practical squibs, although these days every gunshot always has “mist” blood so it can be hard to tell on the first viewing unless it’s atrociously bad CG.  But most of the admittedly hilarious scenes of guys being blown in half or apart were computer graphics and not prosthetics and dummies.  It’s too bad, because if the movie were 100% practical I think it would’ve made it that much more of an authentic classic action experience, but it isn’t bad enough to be overly distracting; think most of the gore in Rambo 4 (which sadly doesn't hold up well now that I've seen it more than a couple of times).

Also most of the incredibly broad physical humor courtesy of Johnny Knoxville was pretty dumb, and usually I go for that type of shit.  I know the guy is capable of funnier stuff than that, and will champion Jackass as long as I live.  Actually I thought Luis Guzmán’s character was generally funnier, and so it begs the question as to why you would put two comic relief characters into your movie.  Schwarzenegger has some funny one liners of course, but nothing that’ll be etched into the annals of action cinema like “He had to split” after cutting a guy in half with a chainsaw, “You’re luggage” after killing an alligator or “I lied” before dropping a bad guy after interrogating him and promising not to kill him.  Here you get “I’m old” after being thrown through a window and “You fucked up my day off” after the villainous Cortez says he fucked up his car.

The main villain in this, Cortez, is a Mexican Cartel Boss who apparently professionally races in his spare time.  Don’t think I’ve seen that before.  Peter Stormare makes an appearance as his lead henchman sporting one of the most ridiculous southern accents I’ve ever heard in a movie, yet somehow pulling it off because that is what Peter Stormare does.  The plot is pretty ridiculous with Cortez racing to the Mexican border in his hot rod with an elaborate plan to prevent any road blocks and cross a canyon, but that’s just the sort of cheeseball shit I expect in a popcorn action flick like this.

So, all in all, The Last Stand was a fun time at the movies.  Sadly it bombed horribly, which makes me worry that perhaps Arnold won’t do too many more movies.  I’ve heard they want to make "King Conan", which many seem to think is a bad idea because Arnold is old but that I think is a great idea because Arnold is old (watch the end of Conan the Barbarian) so hopefully this does well enough on home video to make up for the box office.

Check it out!