Not In His Town. Not On His Watch

Ji-woon Kim

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Forest Whitaker
Johnny Knoxville
Rodrigo Santoro

Arnie’s been missing from the screen for a decade (excluding brief cameo roles) and this is his return to top-billing action films. And it’s bad.. it’s really, really bad.

Set in the sleepy border town of Sommerton, life is simple and slow for Sheriff Ray Owens [Schwarzenegger]. Having worked as a cop in Los Angeles, Owens appreciates the quite banality in a town with ‘no action’. At the same time we are introduced to the highly strung FBI Agent, John Bannister [Whitaker] who is overseeing the transfer of death-row prisoner and the third generation leader of an international drug cartel, Gabriel Cortez [Eduardo Noriega]. The transfer goes horribly wrong and Cortez escapes in a modified Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 (I had to look that up.. I couldn’t give a shit about the car). Unable to catch him in conventional vehicles, all the FBI can do is plot where Cortez may attempt to cross the border into Mexico. Back in Sommerton, Owen’s young and inexperienced deputies stumble onto a small criminal contingent building something in the desert. Owens starts to piece everything together and quickly realises the jeopardy his town is in and so he begins preparations for an all-out assault on the high speed assailant.

Effectively, The Last Stand is a contemporary western and for all intents and purposes, the potential for a quality film is present, if not for the curious pacing, awful characters, tediously formulaic plot and the piss-poor dialogue (of primary school level immaturity). The cinematography, action direction and camerawork all seem to hold up without incident and the score hammers away fittingly from start to end but it’s the acting that strikes me as the worst element. Each and every character (other than the Sheriff) is horribly cliché and played as hammily as humanly possible. You’ve got the yuppie rookie, the ex-military rebel, the plucky female deputy, the crazy wildcard, the henchmen, the mastermind bad guy and the furious official. I mean, we’re talking about Peter Stormare, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzman.. Forest bloody Whitaker for crying out loud! These are incredibly talented individuals under the direction of a fantastic director. How can this movie be so bad? Despite being a year younger than Sylvester Stallone, Schwarzenegger doesn’t seem up to the physical feats his past rival is striving for. And in a way, I’m glad. Throughout the film, I watched Arnie hurl himself about and operating huge weaponry but I think we’ve all seen that before. The scenes that I seemed to enjoy were the investigative elements. Which… if I’m not mistaken… means I preferred Arnie’s actual acting to the action. That’s a genuinely baffling concept to confess but there it is. In print. I liked Arnie’s acting and not in a vicious ha ha, look at the silly old Austrian fool! but a sincere enjoyment of a man tired and weary of the horrors of violence. But then again, I enjoy End Of Days, so take from that what you will.

In places this film is bolstered enough, toning down the fights, gunplay and cheesy one-liners but the whole thing is far too absurd to be taken seriously, so we end up with a mismatched mess. The whole experience is rather reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s The Quick And The Dead, only without the eccentric character types. Up until now, I don’t think Ji-woon Kim has made a bad film to date. Personally, I think he, Ki-duk Kim and Chan-wook Park, represent the finest directorial talent to come out of South Korea in the last two decades.. but this film is so horribly mediocre, robbed of all identity and substance that it’s honestly hard to believe it has been made by the same individual. It’s as if Kim’s opted for something safe, lowering the cinematic bar for western audiences who may not be too pleased with his style and humour. Alternatively, maybe this is a case of studio interference, budgeting issues, sponsorship strong-arming or perhaps the script was reworked so many times it became unbearable. Whatever the reason, whoever’s to blame, The Last Stand is an unfortunate undertaking. Compared to Arnie’s repertoire (let’s face it, most cinemagoers believe the lead actor makes the movie) this one is largely on par with things like Raw Deal and Eraser in terms of forgettableness – I feel it only fitting to use a word that doesn’t exist in an Arnie review. Following my initial reaction, I was going to mark this film significantly lower than a four but it’s a technically well made flick and reasonably entertaining action fare.. I think I’m just sorely disappointed.

Release Date:
25th January 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Cortez’s arrival is imminent, the town is as fortified as it can be and the hired gunmen are laying siege to the few who are standing against them. Then Arnie arrives, armed with a Vickers machine gun. It’s a typically cinematic moment and nonsense but I was thoroughly amused by it. Not because of the implausible stupidity or anything. The cause of my mirth was the fact that blanks in magazines are easily disguised.. as you never see the bullet. A blank on a belt is obviously a blank. In fact, a lot of the firearm choices were amusing: Stormare’s Navy Colt, Guzman’s Tommy Gun, a real medley of ridiculousness.

Notable Characters:
I liked Arnie the cop. Arnie rolling his eyes at the young’uns. Arnie investigating the scene of a crime. Arnie hanging up on Forest Whitaker.. twice. Arnie sitting in a diner ordering coffee but not drinking it. Brilliant stuff.

Highlighted Quote:
“You fucked up my day off!”

In A Few Words:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a transition from Eastern to Western cinema, as bad as this”

Total Score: