I have to admit that the premise for The Last Stand actually sounded cool for a shoot-em-up action flick: An escaped bad guy has outran the FBI and is heading for Mexico. A local sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his first starring role in nearly a decade) of a small hick town and the common townsfolk are the last hope of stopping the crook before he disappears across the border. They dig in, and an action-packed stand-off is under way. Can they apprehend the villain? Can they hold him off at least, until the feds can come to their rescue? A cool premise, right?
Perhaps, but The Last Stand fails remarkably in its execution. When a screenplay gives credit to not only the writer, but a re-writer and a script supervisor, you know your in for some problems.
Despite the script being apparently re-worked and tinkered with, the end product is devoid of what makes most Schwarzenegger movies enjoyable: Fun. The Last Stand is not a fun film, don't let the trailer fool you. With recent films like The Expendables and Hollywood in general shifting their sights on nostalgia, its become cool again for action stars of the past to become aging, past-their-prime action stars of the present. Take Bruce Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger here, they all will be featured stars in action films coming out in the next few months. In The Last Stand, when Arnold comes crashing through a diner and the patrons ask him how he is feeling, he simply responds: "Old."
But other than this line, a thin and flimsy attempt at the sheriff's back-story and the wrinkles that have now formed around Arnold's iron jaw, you would never know that this guy wasn't in his prime. He still kicks butt with the best of them.
And there is a lot of butt-kicking going on in this film, but surprisingly, not nearly enough of it. For a movie called The Last Stand, about two-thirds of the film deal with the events leading up to this last stand. If Peter Jackson was directing this, the film may have been three-hours and would have ended just as the bad guy rolled into Arnold's town (An admittedly low-blow...I guess I haven't quite dealt with my repressed bitterness towards The Hobbit).
This film has all of the makings of a joyous action-packed thrill-ride. But it misses several opportunities to be a better film. Where is the humor? Where are the famed Arnold one-liners (there are a few towards the end of the film that come in rapid succession, but too little too late)? They even cast Jackass's Johnny Knoxville and resident funny sidekick Luis Guzman and neither of them are all that funny.
I guess it's a different world that we live in, since the last time Arnold was Hollywood's hottest property. The Last Stand - following Gangster Squad - is another recent over-blown example of excessive gun violence in mainstream culture, one in which the NRA should love (you see, liberal Americans?? If Arnold didn't have access to Johnny Knoxville's rapid-fire "Nazi Killing" automatic weapon, the criminal would have gotten away!!). But with Arnold in the role of a small-town sheriff, our belief in reality is already suspended. Couldn't they have made his comeback a bit less of a realistic downer?
Expectations weren't all that high, but The Last Stand did re-confirm for me Arnold's ability to reclaim his title as blockbuster, action hero. He's still got it. And one of these days, this lost action hero will get paired with a smarter script. This just isn't that script.
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman, Johnny Knoxville, Eduardo Noriega, Jaimie Alexander
Directed by Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil, A Tale of Two Sisters)
Opens locally on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 (check for show times).
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