When it comes to iconic action movie stars, for a period lasting from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, there may not be a more iconic figure than Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his physical prime, the man was a muscle-flexing, catchphrase-spewing machine who helped franchises like The Terminator and Predator get off the ground with his star power.
As time went on, Schwarzenegger's later films were less successful, and he eventually dropped out of the field for his well-known "Governator" phase in California. Now, after a long hiatus, not only has Schwarzenegger been featured in both films in the Expendables series, but he's starring in a new action vehicle called The Last Stand. While the final product isn't a classic of the action genre the way other Schwarzenegger films were, what's there offers a good amount of enjoyment.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of the small town of Sommerton, where little in the way of serious action goes on for him and his deputies. All that changes when he gets word from an FBI agent (Forest Whitaker) that a notorious criminal (Eduardo Noriega) has staged an elaborate escape from his convoy, stolen a one-of-a-kind car that can easily go above 150 MPH, and is speeding through the country in an attempt to cross the border, with a troop of hired goons planning to clear a path for him through Sommerton by any means necessary. While his deputies, after an early scuffle with the hired help leads to tragic results, are initially hesitant to take on such a dangerous force, Owens can't help but feel that it's his duty to stand his ground and bring the criminal to justice, and soon, all of them are preparing for a big battle on their home turf.
This synopsis might make it sound like the film is a slow burn leading up to all the action being packed into the last act, and while that's certainly where the most fighting takes place, there are some good scenes leading up to it. Some encounters that other policemen and agents have with the car and thugs yield bloody results, and the early scuffle the deputies have is also pretty engaging. In between is a lot of material that, while enjoyable, is certainly more standard. Schwarzenegger brings some weight to his character both through his acting and fighting delivery, but some of the deputies are a bit generic. Exceptions include Luis Guzman, who gets some good lines, and Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame, as an off-kilter citizen whose gun museum ends up being just what our heroes are looking or. As the villain, Noriega has some nice moments displaying his cockiness and glee in the chaos he's causing, but he ultimately doesn't make much of an impact.
There are several truly good moments of both action and well-timed humor (I'll just say that the best death in the film involves a flare gun and leave it at that), and a few half-hearted attempts at character development and romance. Thankfully, there aren't any parts that I would say are terrible or even mediocre. The whole package is a serviceable action film; just not one that was probably needed to make the impact of Schwarzenegger's return more substantial.
While my theater was pretty packed for a Sunday morning showing, from what I understand, the film isn't doing well as a whole, barely cracking the top 10 at the box office. It's probably because he's been gone so long that Schwarzenegger's name doesn't automatically mean a hit any more, but the audience I saw The Last Stand with seemed to enjoy it. A word of warning should be dropped for the squeamish: The film is very bloody, and doesn't shy away from showing the impact a bullet can make. Those who can deal with that will have a good time if they choose to see The Last Stand, but it's hardly something I insist you rush out and see immediately.