It’s been a solid decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger last held a starring role, but it turns out he may still have some of that old fight left in him. Directed by Kim Ji-woon (A Bittersweet Life), The Last Stand is Arnold doing what he does best– making life a living hell for the bad guys while firing off zippy one-liners. The script is ridiculously bad, the violence is gratuitous to the point of almost being comedic, and the melodramatic line readings reach a fever pitch, but dammit if this thing doesn’t do exactly what it sets out to do.
As a former LA narcotics cop who semi-retired to serve and protect a tiny, crime-free Arizona border town, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) patrols the streets in shorts and boat shoes; his only concern is the guy who parks illegally in front of the diner. Hundreds of miles away in Las Vegas, Mexican drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped custody and is headed for the border in a Corvette equipped with a 1000-hp engine and night vision technology. And his road home goes straight through the lonely Sheriff’s town.
While Cortez’s armed-to-the-teeth henchmen build a temporary bridge across a border ravine, he sets land speed records (with a pretty hostage by his side) getting there. And since the FBI, led by agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), can’t make in time, it falls on the Sheriff and his motley crew of a posse to save the day.
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First-time screenwriter Andrew Knauer doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before, especially in movies that have Schwarzenegger’s name at the top of the poster. The bad guys are ruthless and sneering, and the heroes can’t do anything without making a quick joke as they do it, but the comic relief (in the form of bumbling deputy Luis Guzman and town loon Johnny Knoxville) keep things light enough to help us forget that The Last Stand isn’t much more than fast cars and gunfights.
Director Kim, making his U.S. feature film debut, has apparently seen a few Michael Bay films in his life. While not as overtly stylistic as Mr. Transformers, Kim doesn’t do anything slower than 200mph, and the bloody grand finale is slickly choreographed.
The success of The Last Stand, though, rests squarely on the shoulders of Ahnuld. He may have lost a step or two over the years (he’s 65, after all, and has spent most of the last decade sitting behind a desk in Sacramento), but he’s still got it where it counts. He hasn’t forgotten how to shoot a gun, outsmart a villain, or deliver corn with a wink. The end result is a lot closer to Last Action Hero than Commando, but rest assured, he certainly is bahk.
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@popcollin is the resident movie critic at Essex Cinemas in Essex, VT, and Cumberland 12 in Plattsburgh, NY.