The Last Stand Review
by Daniel Rester
The Last Stand marks Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen in a leading role — which he hasn’t done since 2003. It also marks the American film debut of Jee-woo Kim, the talented Korean filmmaker behind such works as A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) and I Saw the Devil (2010). All focus is on Schwarzenegger here though, flexing his muscles, popping off one-liners, and picking up the big guns again. But while Stand isn’t in the same league as some of the great Arnold movies (The Terminator (1984), Predator (1987), etc.), it is still pretty fun and a welcome return for the actor.
Stand has Arnold playing Sheriff Ray Owens (what a name), a former LAPD officer who now watches over the small border town known as Sommerton Junction. The already sleepy town conveniently becomes even quieter after most of the residents leave town to follow the local football team to a game. Meanwhile, a drug kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped the FBI in Las Vegas and is heading to Mexico. This notorious man is stocked with a super-fast Corvette for transportation and an army of gun-toting goons, who are hiding out in Sommerton — awaiting their boss’s arrival. This group of baddies is led by Burrell, played by the always-entertaining Peter Stormare. Also in Sommerton are a load of other cardboard characters, such as a few scared deputies (including Luis Guzman) and wacky gun enthusiast (Johnny Knoxville). After FBI agent John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker, who’s talent is wasted) informs Owens of Cortez’s intentions, Owens rounds up his deputies and some of the locals in order to prevent Cortez from escaping.
The script here (by Andrew Knauer) brings nothing new to the table, using a straightforward, action-heavy story that has echoes of the Western High Noon (1952) and a dozen other films. All of the characters are also basic cutouts (as mentioned before), and there is some occasionally cringe-worthy dialogue. The acting is also a mixed bag, though it is clear everyone is having fun. I expected all of these things going into Stand based on the ad campaign, though.
The movie has its many faults, but knows exactly what it is. Many films like this that try to be bad-but-good just come across as dull, but Stand gets it right. This is because it never tries to get too serious and never loses its energy or sense of fun. Sure, it is completely mindless and ridiculous, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t entertain me.
The film is mainly just a star vehicle for Schwarzenegger. He is getting up there in age and looks it, but he still knows how to be a presence on screen. Another benefit of the film is that he and Kim allow Schwarzenneger’s character to actually not be practically invincible like many of the actor’s past parts. Though Schwarzenneger’s movie, Stand allows other actors to have their moments as well. Knoxville comes off best in the supporting cast as the trigger-happy local; he has his usual zany personality, but never becomes overbearing.
Stand actually has some shining moments of direction from Kim as well. Most of the shootouts are bloody and well-staged, with one wild one involving a school bus and a machine gun. There is also one key hand-to-hand fight that is exciting to watch. But one of the best scenes is actually one of the more suspenseful; it involves a cornfield and one particular overhead shot that is perfect. Kim does a good job at keeping the pace fast during all of this.
If you’re not a fan of Schwarzenneger films or silly action movies, then you probably won’t enjoy Stand. But I found it to be undemanding escapism that entertained me. By no means is this any kind of great film, but it is one that could have been a lot worse.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).