Runtime: 1 HR, 47 MIN
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Writers: Andrew Knauer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, George Nolfi
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Jamie Alexander, Luiz Guzmán, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Genesis Rodriguez, and Harry Dean Stanton
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting career began years before his first major starring role in Conan the Barbarian, but for all intents and purposes let’s say his acting career was really born in 1982. To quote Blade Runner, “The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long” and just over twenty years later his career looked to be nearly over. Then, despite being the Governor of California for eight years, semi-retiring from acting, and going through an embarrassing (and very public) divorce due to an affair from years earlier Arnold seems poised for a comeback in the appropriately titled The Last Stand.
When a drug Cartel boss makes a daring and deadly escape from Federal custody he races toward the US-Mexico border. The only thing standing in his was is the small town of Sommerton Junction, its Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), his deputies, and the town’s resident gun nut/museum owner.
After several years of declining box office returns Schwarzenegger stepped away from acting after the release of Terminator 3 in 2003. Aside from several cameos over the next seven years Arnold was barely seen nor heard from in Hollywood except in a governmental capacity. That all started to change in 2010 with the release of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables; his role wasn’t much more than a cameo (even though it was touted as more than that), but the film reignited the public’s interest in some of its aging action stars. In August 2012 The Expendables 2 was released; this time Arnold wasn’t limited to a mere cameo, but he wasn’t the film’s main attraction which brings us to Arnold’s first headlining role in 108 months or in layman’s terms 9 1/2 years.
You’re never going to satisfy everyone, no matter what there are going to be people that are going to hate Schwarzenegger films. He could star in the Citizen Kane of action films and certain people would still find something to criticize. If you’re not a fan of Arnold’s brand of action film then The Last Stand isn’t going to do much to persuade you otherwise. If you are an Arnold fan there’s a lot to like about The Last Stand which is probably his best stand alone film since Eraser.
His supporting cast comprises of A & B-list stars with a ‘Jackass’ thrown in for good measure. Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzmán, Peter Stormare, and Johnny Knoxville make up the most of The Last Stand’s principle cast. Thor’s Jamie Alexander and Genesis Rodriguez provide the film’s feminine touch which doesn’t amount to much, but does balance out some of the overflowing testosterone. Whitaker and Knoxville are entertaining as is Guzmán whose waist seems to be expanding at a ‘geometric rate’ (that’s a Terminator 2 joke for those of you that aren’t in the know). The film’s villain played by Eduardo Noriega is hit or miss; he’s suave and dangerous but spends most of the film held up in a Corvette. Eventually he faces off against Schwarzenegger, but for much of the film he’s upstaged by the always brilliant Peter Stormare who brought the most amazing Southern-Swedish accent to the screen.
As with the majority of Arnold films there’s an attempt to add some emotional depth to the main character. While I won’t say that The Last Stand is filled with well rounded three dimensional characters it does have an above average amount of two dimensional characters versus one dimensional caricatures. Perhaps it was the years away from Hollywood or perhaps it’s thanks to his time as the ‘Governator’ but his acting seems to have improved. I don’t see any Academy Award nominations in his future, but there was a more genuine human quality to his performance.
As with most Arnold Schwarzenegger movies they live or die on how entertaining the action is. Good news, The Last Stand features a lot of great action. If you love car chases- you’re covered, if you love crave crazy gun fights- you’re covered, if you want to watch a 65 year old Austrian kick the asses of men less than half his age- you are covered in spades. The Last Stand isn’t Terminator 2 or True Lies in terms of action or scope; instead it feels more on par with Eraser, just less silly. Pacing is somewhat suspect with some long gaps in the action heading towards the middle of the film. Once the film puts the peddle to floor the action comes in steady, entertaining waves that effectively shows that Schwarzenegger still has a little bit of gas in the tank.
Some might think giving The Last Stand a four star review is going a bit too far. All I can say to that is that I try to judge a film first and foremost by how entertaining it is. By that standard I found The Last Stand to be incredibly entertaining and if you’re a fan of films like Commando, Predator, The Running Man, The Last Action Hero, True Lies, and Eraser then you’re going to leave the cinema with a smile on your face. Arnold is fond of saying “I’ll be back” and I can happily say it’s true.