Directed by Jee-woon Kim (The Good, The Bad, and The Weird; I Saw the Devil), The Last Stand has been heralded as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to starring in action films. I grew up watching Arnold, I own every film of his, I am what you would call a serious Schwarzenegger fan. I have waited a decade for his return to the cinema, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Last Stand isn’t perfect, but Arnold fans can rejoice, for he truly is back!! The small town of Sommerton Junction is where the film works best, and it’s a quaint slice of Americana. The deputies and residents of this town make for a winning ragtag group of individuals with strong personalities. Through the guise of this town Jee-Woon has somehow crafted a film that is as much an American Western as it is an 80s-style action throwback. This is never more clear than in the beautifully shot chase through a cornfield or in the town’s almost universal love of guns. This film clearly and plainly loves guns and there are some terrific sequences and gags involving a wide variety of firepower.
With racing cars and thrilling action scenes, the movie features Arnold Schwarzenegger as he is tasked with going after a group of gang members lead by a drug lord. All in all, it’s agreeable that there were a couple of faults, and a couple of scenes where that may have been silly and awkward. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting was a bit bad at times. But it’s fun to watch. Eduardo Noriega is excellent as the pretty boy drug kingpin who lets other people do all his dirty work while he reaps all the benefits. He races towards the Mexican border in a fancy race car with a woman by his side while his gang members get blown away by Schwarzenegger and company. I spent the entire film just waiting for him to come face-to-face with Schwarzenegger and get what was coming to him. 80’s action fans will love this one. Even the soundtrack was great; not one single thing that made me say, “Now why did they have to use that song?” See it on the big screen, and bring it home when it hits disc.
What helps in Jee-Woon’s favor in The Last Stand is how he takes the fantasy of all of this to such a degree that you (or I really) can’t help but admire how high it ends up going. It will please hardcore action fans, but unlike the only other recent Schwarzenegger films (so to speak) of the Expendables franchise, it doesn’t really insult your intelligence either. The structure of the film is elegant, though, and in a film like this that is ultimately what matters. Taking place entirely in one day, the film builds well and we spend enough time with the various parties to feel invested by the time the proverbial shit hits the fan. We layer back and forth between Sheriff Ray in his small border town and Forest Whitaker’s FBI agent. The scenes with Forest almost always bring the film down. He’s a talented actor and has a strong presence, but he mostly stands around a room looking at computer screens.
The reason for this movie flopping is probably because no one really expected it to be that good in the first place. There wasn’t even a guarantee in the trailers that it would be pure mindless and fun entertainment. I’ve giving this film a lot of credit here. Had it not been for Arnold’s or Kim’s involvement, this would’ve been an average action thriller. However the stunts are not bad, well choreographed and not a tinge of CGI in sight, and the action comically violent at parts. It’s good to see Arnold back on the big screen in action, but both he and Kim need to do better than this cookie-cutter work. This was a good warm up film and its a shame it’s not doing better at the box office. At age 65, most men are content to retire and rest on their laurels. Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t one to sit on his assets in his old age. Overall, I really liked this film. I cheered, I winced, I threw popcorn in excitement! Is it as good as, say… Terminator? Of course not, but it’s on par with, if not better then, the likes of Eraser or Collateral Damage!