Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Last Stand

Title: The Last Stand
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Released: 2013
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez.

Plot: Having escaped from his prison convoy, drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Noriega) now plans to jump the border into Mexico via the sleepy border town Sommerton Junction, leaving Sheriff Owens (Schwarzenegger) and his ragtag band of deputies to stop him.


Review: Seemingly not content with having reinvented the Western once already with “The Good, The Bad and The Weird” in his native South Korea, here director Kim Jee-woon attempts to do the same thing once more for his English language debut with this modern western, which is equally noteworthy for being Arnie’s first lead role in ten years since the disappointing “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”.

It is of course only fitting that the aging action hero Arnie here essentially takes the role of the retired gunslinger that having put his guns to earth is now enjoying the quiet life in this sleepy desert town, free from the violence and ghosts of the bungled drugs bust which caused him to leave his post in the LAPD. It’s a role which needless to say works perfectly for Arnie who here truly is believable in this role as he shuffles around the town dealing with minor crimes like the occasional cat being stuck in a tree. Infact the crime rate is so low the deputies are early on found slacking off shooting guns at slabs of meat with local vintage arms collector Lewis (Knoxville). Unsurprisingly the FBI is quick to write of these local lawman, especially considering the lack of experience most of them have dealing with any kind of major criminal threat. Of course after one of their own is killed during a firefight with Cortez’s thugs, Owens is quick to put together a plan to take revenge by stopping Cortez, as deputises former marine Frank (Santoro) and even Lewis, aswell as raiding his extensive arms collection which he has written off as being a museum.

Encase you haven’t guessed already the plot is as bonkers as it sounds and a real throwback to the films of Arnie’s golden period as the violence and jokes come in spades, especially Noriega’s drug lord is such an over the top creation, whose only becomes only the more ludicrous the more layers which are added, for what starts off as a drug lord in a superfast sports car, soon turns into a drug lord who apparently also has a side line as a professional race car driver!! It’s really almost as if Jee-woon is trying to see just how far he can push things, especially when the film already has a certain amount of leeway being an Arnie action vehicle and somehow me manages to not only make it work somehow but more importantly do it in such a way that you don’t mind putting plausibility to one side while you’re watching the plot reach ever new heights of randomness.

For those already familiar with Jee-woon’s previous films it will come as little surprise that he once again manages to craft some memorable action sequences, including a great rolling shootout, let alone crafting a wonderful high noon centrepiece on the deserted main street, which sees Owens and his team making full use of Lewis’s extensive arms collection which gives us such great moments as Luis Guzman in a cowboy hat mowing down bad guys with a tommy gun, aswell as the now stand out scene involving Arnie moving down villains with a Vickers machine gun from the back of a school bus. Arnie equally shows he’s still capable of pulling off a half decent brawl for the final showdown with Cortez which sees him matching his MMA style with some powerhouse wrestling moves, however it is also one of the few scenes in which Arnie’s does appear to be creaking slightly. At the same time it’s a smart decision to have him playing the role as more of an everyman than his usual terminator style, something which only seems the more fitting for his current status as the elder statesman of action heroes.

While the film is largely business as usual for Arnie, the film is sadly not without its flaws especially when it takes its time getting going, while Forest Whitaker is essentially squandered as he’s left generally reacting to the situation as it unfolds from the FBI headquarters. Equally an attempt at comedy involving residents of the town refusing to help because of waiting for their omelettes falls flat.

Compared to the films which made up his Bronze period such as “Collateral Damage” and “End of Days” this really is a return to form, even if its not quite at the same level as his Gold period films like “Commando” or “Predator” it’s still a fun ride that does exactly what you need it to do while never taking itself seriously. True this might not be high art film making, but really what are you expecting from this kind of movie?

Looking at the current state of his work slate it would seem that this film with Arnie as the everyman might be more the direction he’s wishing to take things especially when we look ahead to films like “Maggie”, with this film in that respect perhaps serving as a sign of things to come and honestly I’d like to see him do more films like this than trying to cash in on his previous glories, not that I don’t enjoy him pulling out the old tricks for his appearances in “The Expendables” franchise, it’s just makes more sense especially with him being now in his advanced years seeing him playing more characters like Owens which could be a really interesting new chapter for him. For now though we have to wait and see, more so with the lacking box office returns for this film it remains to be seen if audiences could buy him in a more toned down form.

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