Directed by: Jee-woon Kim
Premise: A convict escapes custody and makes a run for the border. When federal roadblocks fail, the only thing standing in the criminal’s way is a small town sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
What Works: The Last Stand is a mix of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1980s action movies like Raw Deal and Commando with contemporary action filmmaking like The Fast and the Furious series. Truthfully, many of the movies that Schwarzenegger starred in throughout the 1980s weren’t very good but they were distinguished by filmmaking showmanship, a sense of fun, and Schwarzenegger’s onscreen charm and The Last Stand possesses those traits. This movie is often silly but the filmmakers realize exactly what kind of movie they are making and if the viewer is up for it The Last Stand is satisfying entertainment. The film has its share of fights, shootouts, and chases and all are well done. The car chases in particular are creatively staged but what is most interesting about the action of The Last Stand is how pared down it is. Many of Schwarzenegger’s films throughout the 1990s escalated the action set pieces into unbelievability. But the action of The Last Stand is moderately scaled and that gives these scenes an immediacy that is more satisfying than the overblown action of a film like Eraser. The Last Stand is primarily a Western and it recalls movies like High Noon and Pale Rider as a lone gunslinger must protect a small town from an approaching enemy. This old formula works surprisingly well in a contemporary setting and the cast fills out the requisite Western character types. Schwarzenegger is cast as the sheriff and although the role is a standard Schwarzenegger hero, the actor’s performance is tempered by age. This is in no way a deep movie but the script affords moments of nuance and emotion for Schwarzenegger’s character and the actor does this convincingly. The Last Stand also has a cast of unique supporting characters. Luis Guzmán plays a deputy and Johnny Knoxville is cast as a local gun enthusiast. Both of these actors contribute a lot of humor and this is frequently a very funny movie. Peter Stormare is cast as a supporting villain and his malicious presence is a match for Schwarzenegger’s hero; as usual Stormare is the most interesting actor in every scene he is in.
What Doesn’t: The Last Stand is by no means a great movie. It is often disjointed in its tone, and various scenes invoke the genres of crime thrillers, hard action, and screwball comedies. The transitions in tone are often abrupt and sometimes work counterproductively; the movie periodically stages a dramatic moment followed by a comedic scene and that juxtaposition diffuses the impact of both. The movie also struggles with its momentum and the story moves in fits and starts. Action scenes are done well but they are also spaced out and in between the movie tends to lag. The Last Stand also struggles with its characterization, as character defining moments are often cut short. The filmmakers grasp for deeper or broader characters but many subplots are incomplete. Schwarzenegger hints at a backstory for his character but it’s given in broad strokes. This comes to hurt the film when it gets to the final showdown. When the hero and the villain finally come to blows there’s not much at stake.
Bottom Line: The Last Stand is a silly but fun action shoot-‘em-up. This isn’t Schwarzenegger’s best work but it is a passably entertaining movie.
Episode: #425 (February 3, 2013)