Release Date: January 18, 2012
Director: Jee-won Kim
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville
Runtime: 107 min
Tagline: Retirement is for sissies
The most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the Western hemisphere escapes a prisoner transfer and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a town sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his inexperienced staff.
Director Jee-won Kim makes his American film debut with The Last Stand, Schwarzenegger’s comeback vehicle. This film does a lot of things right, like its simplistic plot, and a few things wrong, like its characterization and storytelling that has room for improvement.
Firstly, the main problem with the film is the characterization. For a fun action flick, it does admirably attempt to develop the characters, but it’s not easy to care for them thoroughly. Jerry (Zach Gilford) is developed as a young rookie Deputy trying to make it to the big city as he is slightly bored; the Sheriff, Ray Owens, is developed as a former narcotics officer who wanted to take it easy with a small-time Sheriff position; Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) and Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) are established as ex-girlfriend and boyfriend; and Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) is established as a Weapon Museum owner that’s open every second Thursday of each month from 12 P.M. to 3 P.M.; and that’s all the attempt at development, really. Everyone else is established as roles really; angry FBI agent (Forest Whitaker’s John Bannister), damsel in distress (Genesis Rodriguez’ Ellen Richards), insane criminal (Eduardo Noriega’s Gabriel Cortez) and the main deputy (Luis Guzmán’s Mike Figuerola). I didn’t care for all the characters, and the ones I did care for slightly was because they were such good presences (mostly just the Sheriff, Guzmán’s Mike and Knoxville’s Lewis Dinkum.
The other problem with the film is just a little hole in the storytelling. It was probably established that Gabriel Cortez is a ruthless drug kingpin, but if it was, it immediately went out of mind. He just seemed like a criminal everyone is imtimidated by for some reason or a criminal who has a lot of money and is driving a really fast Corvette ZR1.
One must keep in mind, however, that this is mostly just a fun action flick, and the attempt at the character development is just a bonus.
Now, for the question on everyone’s mind: is this a worthy comeback flick for Arnie? Yes, yes it is, with nods to earlier Schwarzenegger that make for funny lines. Arnie, now 65, may comment on how old he is, but he proves he is still capable with a gun and can be in a real fight-to-the-death wrestling match that’s even better than Stallone vs. Van Damme in The Expendables 2. He also can put up a better fight than a SWAT team or multiple road blocks, just because nothing’s more threatening than a body builder. As a guy standing on his own, Ray Owens is a fairly memorable action hero to be added to Arnie’s filmography. However, put him beside the show-stealing Knoxville, he is forgettable. We forget about Knoxville’s Dinkum until he comes back for the last 50 minutes, where he gets the biggest laughs of the feature (besides a rifle-wielding granny who comes out of nowhere). He has finally found a role where his maniacal laughter and crazy comedy works absolute wonders. Oh, and he [Knoxville] and Guzmán make a pretty stellar team, because at some points in the film they’re both confused by what the time period is (examples: swords and shields – Medieval Times; and a Tommy Gun – 1940s gangster era).
The fine pacing all leads up to an extremely fun shoot-out that lasts a fairly appropriate amount of time. If your stomach can handle all the blood, it’s even more fun. That’s what this film offers: bloody violence, a few big laughs, somewhat poorly formed characters, an effectively simplistic plot, and a few nice cars being traditionally wrecked. If that’s your idea of a good time, check out Arnie’s return to the big screen.
Did you know? This is Schwarzenegger’s first leading role since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.