The Last Stand Review

, Tuesday, 29 January 2013 00:00 Written by 
The Last Stand Review
  • Director: Jee-woon Kim
    Writers: Andrew Knauer, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, George Nolfi 
    Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Sonny Landham, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez
    Run Time: 92 mins
    3 stars 

Jee-woon Kim, director of such acclaimed Korean films as The Good, the Bad and the Weird and I Saw the Devil, makes his Hollywood bow with oddball Western curio The Last Stand. Packed with blood, bullets and its fair share of belly laughs, it's a perfect choice for a director known for his style and verve to make the leap to the West.

But for most, Kim's first foray into the mainstream isn't the real draw here. The Last Stand also marks the first leading role for Arnold Schwarzenegger, making his return to full time acting after a decade in politics. In that decade, there's been a huge resurgence in the big, dumb action movies that made the Austrian Oak such an icon in the 80's. Thanks to his Planet Hollywood buddies Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone resurrecting the Die Hard franchise and creating ensemble actioner The Expendables respectively, the climate is perfect for the comeback of the ultimate action hero.

Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, a small-town sheriff with a big past who is called into action when his sleepy border town of Summerton Junction is disturbed by the impending arrival of dangerous fugitive Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega). Cortez has FBI agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) hostage as he pelts across the country in a souped up Corvette.

With FBI head honcho John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) lagging far behind Cortez, it's up to Owens and his motley crew of deputies (Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro) and local gun 'expert' Lewis (Johnny Knoxville) to stop Cortez' henchmen paving the way for his escape across the border.

The first half of the film trudges through reams of exposition and set-up, letting us in on Owens past as a big-time LA cop and Cortez's status as a former motor-racing wunderkind (why wouldn't he be?). Thanks to some colourful supporting characters and the joy of seeing Schwarzenegger back on screen, it's all bearable for a while but eventually the laborious set-up begins to grate.

Thankfully it all builds to a riotous third act, a ridiculously over the top shootout filled with madcap action and insane bloodshed, peppered with an abundance of Arnold's trademark one-liners. Though his screen time is surprisingly limited throughout the first two thirds, the climax belongs to Schwarzenneger and he brings his own particular brand of stiff charisma to proceedings as he wields a mini-gun and slays generic henchmen left and right.

Refreshingly, The Last Stand doesn't rely on its star's back catalogue for laughs and there's none of the lazy rehashing of old catchphrases that makes The Expendables films such an excruciating experience. That's not to say the film takes itself too seriously, quite the opposite, it is preposterously silly in a really fun way.

It's not quite an action classic but The Last Stand is a solid debut for Kim and a welcome return to the big screen for Schwarzenegger. A light, funny and joyously violent film with a cast of colourful supporting characters – including Peter Stormare and his changeable accent as Cortez's top henchman – The Last Stand isn't quite an action classic but it's a welcome return to the big screen for Schwarzenegger.


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