There has been a resurgence of the old guard coming back into action films over the past few years in the wake of Stallone’s closing chapters of his flagship film series Rocky and Rambo and his new series The Expendables. All of them have been fun, and Stallone is the man for bringing back the balls into action films (Matt Damon isn’t kicking anyone’s ass), but there is one man who spear-headed the entire genre who still has a part to play in it: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And that is what The Last Stand is here for. The Last Stand focuses on Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), a small town Arizona sheriff who takes his oath to the law seriously and is determined to bring down an escaped cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Euduardo Noriega from the criminally underrated Thesis and The Devil’s Backbone) who is headed through Owen’s town in a souped up muscle car heading straight for the Mexican border.
Federal Agent John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker) is increasingly frustrated as Cortez’s slick driving skills and forward thinking have left his people and their efforts empty handed. As Cortez approaches Owen’s town, Bannister gives the sheriff the heads up, but Owen is already on the case. Cortez’s henchmen have been discovered by one of Owen’s officers, Sarah Torrance (Jamie Alexander, aka Sif from the Thor films). A firefight ensues between the officer and the henchmen who are led by none other than Peter Stormare (Prison Break, 8MM). One of Owen’s officers is left dead, and it leaves him and his rag tag crew forced to take action and team up with bizarre coo-coo lander Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), who owns a barely legal weapon museum, to prepare for Cortez and battle his henchmen.
This is a very solid action film and one of the best Schwarzenegger has had in a long, long while. The man’s career has been suffering from diminishing returns since Eraser and it’s good to see him back on top. One of the things I liked best about this film is that it doesn’t try to downplay the fact that Schwarzenegger is 66 years old. Peter Stormare recently did an interview with Shock Cinema magazine in which he said that this is Schwarzenegger’s John Wayne moment. I’m inclined to agree with that.
One of the more interesting things about the film is it’s director Kim Jee-Woon, who has directed a couple of my favorite Korean films over the past decade, A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw the Devil. The latter film is an instant revenge masterpiece that, for my money, is better than Oldboy and is a movie that you should have seen at least three times by now. Jae-Woon transitions easily into the American way of action films and keeps the film moving at a brisk and entertaining pace. There are some very slick action set pieces in which he shows off a bit, like when Schwarzenegger busts into a shootout between his deputy and Cortez’s henchmen in his SUV and shot gun blasts the badguys into oblivion, but for the most part he keeps the film old school.
It’s a very entertaining film that is meant to be a crowd pleaser and it achieves it’s goals admirably. Kim Jee-Woon is proving himself to be a very versatile and fun director, while Schwarzenegger is giving us some of his best work in a long time. Veteran character actors like Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Luiz Guzman, and Eduardo Noriega bring a lot of film history and experience to the table and make the production a stronger film for it. The best part about the film is that it doesn’t coast on Schwarzenegger’s legacy; it solidifies it.