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Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger can rest easy. Every moment he's onscreen in "The Last Stand" is far better than his entire extended cameo in "The Expendables 2." And the film itself manages to pile on nearly as much action. The aim of "The Last Stand" is to have fun, and the movie manages to do that while skirting the line of silliness.
What silliness, one might ask? Well, what the villain lacks in personality he makes up for in horsepower. The bad guy throughout most of the film is a souped-up Corvette. The car fools a highway patrolman at the start of the film, flying by his parked cruiser at nearly 200 miles-per-hour with the headlights off. A cartel kingpin is on his way to death row when the FBI botches up the transport. Now on the lam, Gabriel Cortez heads for the Mexican border in the stolen Corvette.
Cortez is in the car until just beyond the climax of the film, so it does seem like the true perpetrator is the Corvette as it speeds through police checkpoints. In the meantime, Cortez has Burrell(played by an ageless Peter Stormare) do all his dirty work, which involves some ingenuity to get him over the border. After annihilating the SWAT team en route to the final town before the Mexican border, Cortez only has one person standing in his way: the sheriff of that small town, Ray Owens(Schwarzenegger).
Well, more than one person. “The Last Stand” still gives many of the biggest action moments to the action legend, including the final showdown, but it also gives him a team to work with, one he would obviously need as he ain't no youngster anymore. Sure, he might be able to power a WWII-era machine gun by day, but he would certainly require a heating pad and some Ben-Gay for his arthritic flare-ups at night. Owens’ deputies are somewhat inexperienced, but loyal(played by the likes of Luis Guzman, Matthew Greer and this reviewer’s new crush, Jaimie Alexander). When the sheriff learns that the SWAT team won’t make it, he even enlists the help of the local nutjob(Johnny Knoxville) who may not be all that nuts: he uses the excuse of operating a gun museum to keep a lot of heavy artillery within his grasp, but also seems to have the proper paperwork.
The strong female presence in the film is also worth mentioning. Director Kim Jee-Woon creates a world filled with female deputies, FBI agents, and even helicopter pilots. Two of the best comic relief moments come from the female persuasion as well. The action genre is usually one dominated by men, so it’s a welcome change to see “The Last Stand” mix it up so nicely.
So much focus on speeding cars sometimes makes “The Last Stand” feel like it was written by a fourteen year-old, but there’s no denying its sense of fun. At one moment the viewer might be tempted to roll their eyes, but the feeling quickly fades, and throughout most of the flick they will find themselves smiling. As for Schwarzenegger, this is a better outing than some of the stuff he did shortly before he joined the political races(“Collateral Damage”, anyone?). The fact that Schwarzenegger can laugh at himself is much to his credit; he’s not simply trying to prove that he’s still a tough guy while he picks up his AARP card from the mailbox(ahem, Sylvester?). And even so, “The Last Stand” proves that he’s still got it, even if it’s with a little help from a stunt double. And a strong supporting cast. And great direction, and a solid screenplay. Heck, this movie has a lot going for it.