Film Review : The Last Stand
● By Justin Buettner
Featuring the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Last Stand follows Ray Owens, an aging small town sheriff who is the only person standing in the way of an escaped Mexican Drug cartel boss’s successful escape from the USA. Will the overmatched small town sheriff be able to stop the rampaging bad guy and his gang of thugs from crossing the border?
Let’s make no mistake, The Last Stand is about Arnold returning as a leading man after a decade off, excluding guest appearances and supporting roles in the Expendable movies. Arnold picked a reasonable role for his return to action. The character he plays is an appropriate age on the screen, the action revolves mostly around car chases and gun fire which help disguise Arnold’s obvious lack of mobility now that he is in his sixties. Even the lone hand to hand combat scene stages Arnold as more of a George Foreman type, that can take a beating and land just enough power strikes to prevail in the end. So in the end Arnold could say it is a winning movie for him, but will it be for his fans?
Arnold Schwarzenegger is, in all sense of the word, a living breathing comic book cartoon. Everything about him is exaggerated and amplified not limited to his bulging muscles, his swagger, his famous one-liners, and his charisma. Arnold during the 80’s and 90’s was the walking embodiment of testosterone. So watching him now slowly move his way through scenes, no longer sporting the famous muscles and the cocky youth he projected so well, it really makes me feel sad and kind of old myself. It is not as bad as watching a sixty year old Harrison Ford pretend to be Indiana Jones, but watching Arnold now is not nearly as fun as watching him in his earlier work. Unlike Clint Eastwood who has been able to take dramatic parts and in some roles use his former bravado to his favor, Arnold was never about the art of acting, with him it is all presence and that is something father time has weakened quite a bit.
Hidden behind the return of Arnold is the fact that the Last Stand is the first American film directed by famous Asian action filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon. Jee-Woon certainly knows how to direct action with style and he does so in this film. The gunshot kills all explode with power and blood. The car stunts are over the top and fun to watch. Bullets fly through the air all over the place. None of it seems remotely realistic and to call the happenings on screen silly is an understatement, but it is entertaining. Kim Jee-Woon’s limitations seems to mirror his lead actor’s though and that is in the drama. The dialog is downright awful, and although that can be credited to the trio of writers, it also reflects the direction of a foreign director paired with a thick accented Austrian actor that is not known for his speaking ability. The film also surrounds Arnold with a strange mix of supporting actors like Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville who ham it up to mediocre results. Forest Whitaker who has proven he has the ability to act, sleepwalks his way through a generic FBI role. The plot and story don’t break new ground and if it weren’t for the go for broke style of Jee-Woon in his action scenes and the oddly enthusiastic if not flawed performances of the cast the Last Stand could have easily been a huge disaster.
Action fans will find the movie to be forgettable fun and fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger will be nostalgic for his return. It’s the right sort of role for an aging action star and taking projects with young directors pushing the envelope is not a bad strategy. However I question why return at all? He is never going to be a great actor and he is a shadow of his former self physically. The allure he had when he was a world wide super-star will never be rekindled, it can’t. He will never be able to make another great action film like True Lies at his age and limitations. In the end watching Arnold is not quite as fun as it used to be when he was young and brash, kind of like watching Michael Jordan unretired for the second time and play for a bad Wizards team. While the Last Stand is not a terrible action film you might be better served revisiting some of Arnold’s classic action films and witnessing him in his prime and at his best.
Films like Last Stand : Expendables, Red, and Rambo
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.