The Last Stand – 2013

Director Kim Jee-Woon
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzmán, Forest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Génesis Rodríguez, Harry Dean Stanton
Screenplay Andrew Knauer

Arnold’s first starring role since he was governor of California s the kind of film that would have  een a modest hit around the time of Red Heat and Commando, but has no place in a movie house present day without his name being attached to the project.   It’s as brutal as a Charles Bronson film and as obvious as anything Segal would be in.  What is the possible draw for real actors, such as Guzmán and especially Whitaker?  To see the latter ask “Do you think I am stupid?” is an apt question, depending on whether he is asking in the context of his character, or his choice to sign on the dotted line.

The plot involves a bad guy from a cartel who is powerful enough to stage an elaborate break out involving a large magnet and an endless supply of decoys.  How he got caught in the first place is never explained.  There is a fast car involved and some needless chase scenes past road  blocks that seem suspiciously easy to get through.  Whitaker’s Agent John Bannister is in hot pursuit and Arnold’s small town Sheriff Ray Owens is directly in the escape path.  Owens has a mysterious accent for someone who is from L.A., this could be said about most of Arnold’s film work.

It’s not like Arnold can’t carry off a role like this.  His charisma is gentler than it was.  It is somewhat off-putting, when one takes into account all the high-caliber shooting that is going on.  His fellow policemen and towns folk are there mainly to listen to Owens put the pieces of the mystery together, and to be shot and then waiting to be rescued.  Stromare makes a great number 2, something about his Mike Honcho alter-ego.  Seeing Arnold hit with thugs so precisely with his truck and then a short barrel 12-gauge is comical.

I am not sure what the appeal of the cartel guy (Noriega) with his Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 is supposed to be, but seeing him purposely let the S.W.A.T. team’s SUV flip over it leaving a few scratches and no dents.

So what’s with Johnny Knoxville, his bear and his stupid hat?  It’s almost enough to distract one from all the cool guns he is given by the studio.  “Do you have stupid names for all your shit?” Owens asks as Knoxville calls his truck Vickie or Henrietta or something.  We feel the same way, and get no humor out of his asking.  Knoxville has that kind of effect by now.  He’s about done as a bit actor.

The only way this plot works is if there is only one way to get across the border…and one time to do so.  Don’t tell the script writer that there is another street that bad guys could go down, or even a part of town with no street, or around the town.

When it comes to humor, it is interesting to see such a violent film that has jokes that would work with The Golden Girls.  The mixture of inventive explosions with body parts flying and old people cheering Arnold on is curious, to say the least.  Arnold is ready to play old, as clunky as he is, he still has appeal.

Jee-Woon has a reputation of making many good films across several genres.  I have only seen this one.  It is a bit above average.  It’s one thing to make stylized violence. It’s another to make a boatload of one-dimensional characters who prepare for a gun battle in front of a green corn field in one scene and then drive through a dry corn field ten minutes later.  That’s not a culture thing, though.  I am pretty sure there are 4 seasons in South Korea, too.

(*** out of *****)

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