BBFC Classification: 15
Director: Jee-woon Kim
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Sonny Landham
It still seems strange that The Last Stand was the first movie to see Arnold Schwarzenegger get top billing since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 10 years before in 2003, but that career in politics beckoned and the big man did leave us for a while. It was probably good timing that he did really, as his previous few films had ranged from the decent-but-not-up-there-with-his-best Eraser to the mind-numbingly dull Collateral Damage, and it seemed that Arnie’s star power was starting to wane slightly.
But like all good heavyweights a comeback was always on the cards and the sight of seeing him blast his way through an airport in The Expendables 2 was a real treat for those of us of a certain age with memories of the Austrian Oak standing tall with an M61 and a stern expression. The Last Stand sees Arnie back as the lead and returning to full-on action but being 65 when he made it, did he manage to pull it off convincingly?
Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is the Sheriff of Sommerton, a sleepy town on the US/Mexico border where not a lot happens and that’s the way Ray likes it. Unfortunately notorious drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega – The Devil’s Backbone) has escaped federal custody during a transfer and is heading towards the Mexican border in a high-powered sports car, and guess where he’s planning to pass through?
Before he gets there his gang have to go to the small town to set up his escape route but Cortez is being pursued by FBI agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker – Species) who calls ahead to Owens to warn him about what’s coming his way. But Owens is busy investigating the murder of a local farmer, why a temporary bridge is being built over a canyon on the border nearby and how all of these events are connected. It’s going to be a busy day for the Sheriff…
Directed by Korean Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil/The Good, The Bad, The Weird), The Last Stand is his US feature film debut and sees him injecting some high-octane thrills into an established story that has been told and retold in several different guises ever since the golden age of Hollywood. The action scenes are extremely well handled, the car chases exciting and explosions and bullets everywhere let you know that this isn’t going to be some watered-down version of glorious B-movie violence – this is B-movie all the way.
Johnny Knoxville (Jackass) shows up as Lewis Dinkum, a slightly mad weapons collector who has a nice selection of guns for the Sheriff to play with when needed, and his appearance could have added too much of a comedic twist on things, especially as he was plastered all over the posters with Arnie, but luckily he isn’t on-screen all that much and when he does appear it is as comic relief but not in a dumb sidekick way. Forest Whitaker is quite watchable as Agent Bannister, who really gets his knickers in a knot trying to catch Cortez and not wanting to deal with a hick town Sheriff, and there are small appearances by Harry Dean Stanton (Alien/Christine) and Sonny Landham (Lock Up/Predator) for added genre charm.
The Last Stand, however, is really about one man. How does he fare after his decade away from the action? Well, the years of bodybuilding have obviously taken their toll as he has the gait of a man whose limbs have endured some serious strain, but he still looks pretty good for man of 65 and he still looks good doing what he’s known for. In his final showdown with Eduardo Noriega – and it is a showdown in the classic sense – Arnie uses a lot of wrestling moves and one can’t help being reminded of Tony Burton’s speech in Rocky Balboa about how Rocky has arthritis and hardly any cartilage left so speed and endurance are out and he’ll have to rely on good old fashioned power to be effective. And effective he is, in the same way that Clint Eastwood’s screen persona has remained hard-as-nails despite his advancing years. You still wouldn’t want to mess with Arnie and hopefully he has a few good rounds left in him yet.
Like with most Arnie action films a degree isn’t necessary to enjoy what’s going on. The script is a little groansome in places and Arnie’s one-liners don’t get any better, but you’re still glad they’re there; remember how bland Collateral Damage was without any of the fun element thrown in? The film also takes its time to get to the inevitable, taking nearly an hour to set up the final act, but what a final act it is! So if you find your attention beginning to wane a little around the 45-minute mark hang in there because the pay-off is worth it.
Overall, The Last Stand is a great, fun action film that doesn’t try to be anything other than what you would expect it to be. Following the structure and creating the feel of a classic western there is very little here you haven’t seen before but seeing it done well is the reward. Arnie still has that giant screen personality that he always had and, thankfully, he keeps the “I’m too old for this” gags to a minimum – seriously guys, you should have got it all out of your systems in The Expendables 2 so there really is no need to keep referring to your age in every film you appear in. It may not end up being as fondly remembered as The Terminator, it may not be as re-watchable as Predator but The Last Stand is the most enjoyable – and therefore the best – film Arnie has made since True Lies back in 1994 and it hits all the buttons that it needs to, once it gets going.
Special Features: Not in My Town making-of featurette, deleted and extended scenes, The Dinkum Firearms and Historical Weaponry Museum Tour featurette, Actor-Cam Anarchy featurette, Cornfield Chaos featurette.
UK Release Date: 27th May 2013