Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: The Last Stand

The Last Stand
Directed by: Jee-woon Kim.
Written by: Andrew Knauer.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Ray Owens), Forest Whitaker (Agent John Bannister), Peter Stormare (Burrell), Eduardo Noriega (Gabriel Cortez), Luis Guzmán (Mike Figuerola), Sonny Landham (Henry), Jaimie Alexander (Sarah Torrance), Johnny Knoxville (Lewis Dinkum), Zach Gilford (Jerry Bailey), Christiana Leucas (Christie), Harry Dean Stanton (Mr. Parsons), Genesis Rodriguez (Agent Ellen Richards), Daniel Henney (Phil Hayes), Rodrigo Santoro (Frank Martinez).

It’s somewhat reassuring to have Arnold Schwarzenegger back making movies again after far too long as Governor of California. Back when I was a teenager, you could count on a few big, dumb action movies from Arnie a year. Some of these were entertaining big, dumb action movies, and some of them were just big and dumb. But Schwarzenegger was a true movie star – he had his superman, yet funny, screen persona, and more often than not, he delivered the goods. He wasn’t a great actor, but in his wheelhouse, he could at least make entertaining junk. But since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Arnie has been MIA – showing up in a cameo once in a while, but basically concentrating on being Governor, which I suppose is more important. But with The Last Stand, Arnie is finally back in the saddle – doing what he does best. The Last Stand is not a great movie, hell, it’s not even a very good one, but for someone like me it represents cinematic comfort food.

In the movie, Arnie plays a small town Texas Sheriff, who gave up his “glamorous” life in the LAPD years ago because he had seen too much death. He just wants to ride out his days in a quiet town where nothing much happens. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. A Federal prisoner, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), has escaped custody and his making his way down to Mexico, with a Federal agent hostage, in a stolen Mustang, that has been retrofitted to make it the faster vehicle imaginable – the car can even outrun a helicopter. Federal agents, led by Forest Whitaker, are scrambling to catch him, but he is heading right for Arnie’s small town. Can this possibly have anything to do with the strange men he saw in the local greasy spoon? What do you think? So Arnie assembles his ragtag group of deputies – comic relief provided by Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville, along with the inexperienced, but gung ho Zach Gilford, and the pretty Jaimie Alexander, who has just broken up with her boyfriend, Rodrigo Santoro, who was once in the Army, so you know, he has some killing skills. All that stands in the way of Cortez and his crew is this band of misfits.

So yes, The Last Stand is a dumb action movie. It makes little to no sense on a logical level, so you’re left with a choice to either role with the movie, or fight it every step of the way. I rolled with it. No, it’s not a good movie – despite being directed by Jee-woon Kim, the Korean who made the excellent, disturbingly graphic chase film I Saw the Devil – but if this is your cup of tea, I have a hard time believing you won’t be entertained by it. This is a movie with zero pretension – it’s not trying to be serious, not trying to make any sort of point, just trying to be a fun way to spend an hour and forty seven minutes, and for the most part it succeeds. Kim is an expert at action direction, and those scenes for the most part are well handled – I particularly enjoyed a ridiculous car chase through a corn field.

Make no mistake no one is going to really believe The Last Stand is a good movie. Yet, Arnie plays the role just right – gets some laughs making fun of his age – and is supported by an equally good supporting cast, none of them taking anything too seriously. The Last Stand is a guilty pleasure – but it is pleasurable.

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