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Should I Watch..? The Last Stand
What's the big deal?
The Last Stand is an action comedy film released in 2013 and is the American debut of Korean director Kim Jee-woon. The movie stars Johnny Knoxville, Jamie Alexander, Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzman and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, his first lead performance in a movie since Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (1) in 2003. The movie focuses on a sheriff and his small team of deputies who must band together in order to stop a runaway fugitive from escaping across the border to Mexico. The film received mixed reviews upon release although it did make a small profit over its estimated $30 million budget.
What's it about?
Small-town Sheriff Ray Owens is resigned to a life of fighting the pettiest of crimes in the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction in Arizona. He's bored, longing for the days when he doesn't have to tow the mayor's car from a bus lane or confiscate the latest gun that vintage arms dealer Lewis Dinkum has got his hands on. Clearly not being careful what he wishes for, he soon finds himself and his deputies on up to their necks in trouble.
International drug lord Gabriel Cortez escapes from FBI custody in Las Vegas and makes his way towards Mexico. Despite the various roadblocks set up to stop him, Cortez races towards Sommerton Junction in his modified Chevrolet Camaro. FBI Agent John Bannister contacts Owens, warning him of Cortez's arrival with his heavily-armed goons. But Owens isn't about to let Cortez through without a fight, not on his watch...
Sheriff Ray Owens
Agent John Bannister
Deputy Sarah Torrance
Deputy Mike Figuerola
Release Date (UK)
24th January, 2013
Action, Comedy, Thriller
What's to like?
I admire a film that knows its limitations and nobody in The Last Stand is pretending that this is anything other than a violent B-movie to ease Schwarzenegger back into the fold. It has a easy-going charm about it that hard to dislike. The action is actually pretty good and reminiscent of those spaghetti Westerns but with an unexpected comic twist. If anything, half of the comedy comes from the action with every death seemingly acting as some macabre punch-line. The story doesn't need to be that good and indeed, it provides the film with all the necessary excuses for wild gun fights and improbable high speed chases.
Schwarzenegger, obviously a lot older since we last saw him on screen, takes a bit of getting used - not because he's bad but because it's a shock to the system seeing how much he's aged. He never fully convinces but again, does he need to? The movie is all about putting on a show to entertain undemanding punters and on that front, it works. It shouldn't but it does.
- As the deputies load up with guns, Luis Guzman can be seen holding a sword. This sword has the exact same design as the one Schwarzenegger used in Conan The Barbarian (2).
- The screenplay was on a blacklist of most liked unmade scripts in 2009.
- The jet that the FBI use to chase the Corvette actually has a top speed of 488 miles per hours - considerably faster than the car. The fastest Corvette on recorded clocked in at just over 200 miles per hour and only after Hennessey Racing had modified it.
What's not to like?
At least some of the cast try - Knoxville makes no attempt at reigning in his natural goofiness but is irritating from the first scene he appears. The script makes no attempt at throwing up the odd surprise or two, content with allowing this uber-criminal to drive straight to the set ready for his showdown with Arnie. If I were planning on crossing the border, I might have done something other than sticking to the main roads even if I was in a prototype Corvette. And what a prototype - doesn't get a scratch or anything, despite ramming several other vehicles off the road and driving through a cornfield! Get me one of those! Might be worth having a look at the small print on the product placement agreement because, frankly, I'm surprised it's not called "The Last Corvette".
Not that logic appears much in this film. It's stupid and idiotic, fuelled by characters you never fully believe saying stuff you'd never picture them saying. It might be fun but would a little tension or drama have been too much to ask? The pace of the film also feels off - very slow in the beginning but lightning quick during the finale. Some balance would also have helped. And surely Schwarzenegger deserved a better comic sidekick than Johnny Jackass (3) Knoxville? Even Martin Lawrence would have sufficed.
Should I watch it?
It's no classic for sure but The Last Stand is an entertaining enough blast through B-movie clichés. It's not bothered about being much of a thriller, remaining perfectly happy to entertain its undemanding target audience with a good mix of excessive action and small-town charm. And frankly, it's nice to see the Governator getting back to what he does best.
Great For: forgiving action fans, Chevrolet's stockholders
Not So Great For: award nominations, Johnny Knoxville, small towns in Arizona
What else should I watch?
Schwarzenegger has made much better movies than this - Commando (4) is a cheesy but effective action movie from the early Eighties, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (5) is an unrivalled mix of superb effects and mind-blowing action (and is a bit less clunky than the original) while True Lies (6) sees him flex his comedic muscles as a spy having marital problems. All of these are great films and are well recommended.
The desert backdrops of Arizona have inspired more than their fair share of Westerns like Unforgiven (7) and The Magnificent Seven (8). Not just a bullet-fuelled action film that we're used to these days, both films offer their share of drama and intrigue as well - Unforgiven is a simply beautiful film to watch with Clint Eastwood in the form of his life as an aging farmer forced into his old gun-slinging habits one last time.