Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first leading role in a decade sees him in a classic Western. Schwarzenegger plays a small-town sheriff ridiculously outgunned and outmanned in a showdown with a Mexican drug kingpin, who has escaped from prison with the help of his formidable gang and is hurtling down the highway toward the border in an uber, souped-up Corvette. The drug lord ignores a heavily fortified border crossing in favor of a sleepy little town where the only thing standing in his way is Schwarzenegger and his three deputies. He should have taken the other route.
The movie has something of a split personality as it shifts abruptly between the sheriffs’ preparations, the drug gang’s advance-team logistics work, the drug lord barreling toward the border, and the FBI ineptly chasing him. The high speed scenes with the drug lord and the high-tech scenes with the FBI downshift sharply when the focus moves to the methodical groundwork of the sheriff team, resulting in a strange, uneven pacing between the two halves of the story. There’s a schism in tone, too; the violence is for the most part graphic and treated seriously (with a few cartoonish exceptions), but takes place in the midst of slapstick humor, keystone antics, and silly one-liners. It's not fatal, but it's odd.
The cliches are pretty thick and the plot is mostly by the numbers, but the relationship between Schwarzenegger and the younger deputies is genuinely sweet, and plays well as foil in the theme of the grizzled veteran proving that it’s not yet time for him to hand over the baton. Johnny Knoxville is entertaining if a little irritating as the village eccentric, Luis Guzman is amusing as the cowardly deputy who surprises himself with his own bravery, and Jaimie Alexander is lovely as always. Worth seeing, as long as expectations are modest.