Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the big screen in his first starring role since 2003. He’s briefly appeared in a few movies since then but we haven’t gotten to see Arnold take the lead for awhile now and the action legend’s return is most welcome. In The Last Stand, Arnold plays a small town sheriff that comes up against a resourceful leader of a drug cartel who is making a break for the U.S./Mexican border after escaping FBI custody. The only thing that lies in the way of the fleeing drug lord is the sheriff and his inexperienced deputies.
Going into The Last Stand, I wasn’t necessarily hoping for greatness, I just wanted to have a good time. In that respect, I found The Last Stand to be successful, though perhaps not exactly for all the right reasons. Arnold himself is fun to watch. He still has his star charisma, though slightly more subdued, allowing him to fit into his role as an aged sheriff and be believable. Everything else around Arnold seems to be a bit of a mixed bag and the movie lacks an intriguing story and strong characters. However, considering this is an Arnold action vehicle, that really shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Whenever The Last Stand switches its focus away from Arnold, the movie can start feeling kind of generic and at times cartoonishly weird. Just about every character in the film is inept at everything they do to varying degrees, specifically Forrest Whitaker’s lead FBI character who deserves to be fired from his job because he does absolutely nothing right and just acts surprised when he’s (easily) outwitted. The two main villains don’t seem all that threatening and often speak hilariously bad dialogue. The drug lord, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), did nothing that convinced me he was this big bad that all the characters made him out to be and one of his monologues had me questioning exactly what I had heard and if it made any sense whatsoever. Peter Stormare, who plays a secondary villain, portrays his henchman character with a bizarre gusto that had me laughing out loud a couple times.
Suprisingly enough though, despite having some issues, The Last Stand manages to retain its sense of fun throughout its running time even though there are definitely moments that feel drawn out or could easily be excised from the film without any consequence. The supporting cast all manage to breathe some life into their thin characters. Luis Guzman is pretty hilarious and Johnny Knoxville has a few moments that had me laugh, even if his character is overly cartoony. Jaimie Alexander does her best with her character and tries to add a little emotional depth to her role.
Director Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil and The Good, the Bad, the Weird) makes his American directorial debut with style but I definitely get the sense that some of the small bizarre moments in the movie that feel a little out of place can be attributed to translation issues or perhaps to Kim’s quirky personality as a filmmaker. I definitely appreciated Kim’s decision to go practical with the effects and action employed in the film though and that went a long way in my enjoyment of the film. I do wish he had gone even bigger with the action but perhaps they were limited a little by their budget.
The Last Stand is a B-movie through and through and can absolutely be enjoyed for its ridiculousness and its star. Your enjoyment of the film may end up depending on how big of an Arnold fan you are, your appreciation of B-grade movies and/or your threshold for inept characters. I was able to have fun with the movie and feel it sits comfortably amongst some of Arnold’s other films. I’m certainly glad to have Arnold back and I can’t wait to see him in his future film projects like The Tomb, Ten and most especially in The Legend of Conan (if they do that right, it’s going to be all kinds of awesome). The Last Stand may not ultimately end up being one of Arnold’s most remembered films but it’s a popcorn action flick that is sure to entertain those looking for some mindless fun.
by Ben McBride