The Last Stand (2013)

Retirement Is for Sissies

When he said ‘I’ll be back,’ Arnold Schwarzenegger certainly wasn’t lying. After leaving the film business and serving two consecutive terms as the 38th Governor of California — from 2003 until 2011 — many speculated whether or not the Austrian superstar would ever return to the silver screen to reprise his indestructible action-hero persona. While his cameo in The Expendables 2 (2012) was just a tease or a throwback, simply aimed at fans to invoke 1980s nostalgia in all the right ways, many waited in quiet anticipation for Schwarzenegger’s triumphant return. Now, with The Last Stand, Schwarzenegger’s first headlining picture in almost a decade, the larger-than-life megastar revisits his heyday roots with dignity in a barrage of over-the-top action, gruesome violence and self-effacing humor.

Hasta la vista, baby!
Hasta la vista, baby!

After a failed operation leaves him aching with guilt and regret, Agent Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) ditches his LAPD narcotics post and settles for a quiet Sheriffs job in the sleepy Mexican border town of Sommerton Junction, combating the little crime that takes place. The town’s peaceful serenity is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, escapes from an FBI prisoner convoy in Las Vegas. Aided by a fierce band of lawless mercenaries — led by the unruly Burrell (Peter Stormare) — Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border in a specially modified Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1Corvette ZR1 — apparently advertised as the fast car ever made when travelling in a straight line — with hostage, Agent Ellen Richards (Génesis Rodríguez) in tow and only Sommerton Junction standing in the way of his freedom. Now, on his day off, Sheriff Owens must muster his forces together to stop the deadly fugitive from crossing the border and escaping United States custody.

Armed with a rag-tag crew of misfits, including the town buffoon, Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), moody Deputy Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzmán), rookie officer looking for excitement, Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford), the beautiful but skilled Deputy Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) and her screw-up ex-boyfriend Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) — who was locked up in a jail cell due to drunken disorderly behavior — and added by Federal Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), Owens and his crew must make one last stand to stop Cortez from fleeing into Mexico in a final showdown that will either put Owens and Sommerton Junction on the map forever, or blow them out of existence.

Country girls don't retreat ... they just reload!
Country girls don’t retreat … they just reload!

Skillfully directed by visionary South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon, who has made quite a name for himself blending different genres — just look at Jee-woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008) — The Last Stands thrives thanks to Jee-woon’s edgy style, fluid visuals and meticulous first-rate eye. Here, Jee-woon seems to be mimicking John Woo’s, Face/Off (1997), trademark filmmaking style. Thankfully however, Jee-woon is rather skilled at staging action, as The Last Stand features several thrilling, well executed action sequences with a rampant conclusion which sees Owens chancing Cortez — in the Mayor’s red Camaro — through a cornfield in a wonderfully dramatic final showdown ending in a bare knuckles brawl. Being Kim Jee-woon’s U.S. directorial debut, the film’s success is even more surprising given the fact that Jee-woon can hardly speak or understand a single word of English.

The screenplay by newcomer Andrew Knauer is similarly polished, giving Arnie room to utter more of his signature one-liners — predominantly aimed at his age — breaking up the tenser moments in the picture. The Last Stand does take a considerable while to take off, with a rather slow start — spending a bit of time setting up its characters and situation — but once the flick kicks into high gear, it becomes a wild barrage of bloody gun-fire, brutal shootouts, fun one-liners and high-octane car chases that only a Schwarzenegger film could successfully deliver.

Governor says School's Out!
Governor says School’s Out!

The big man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, True Lies (1994), shows us that even at the ripe age of 65, still has what it takes to delight hordes of fans, portraying his notorious tough-as-nails, macho persona with relative ease, in a role that doesn’t downplay his old age, but instead, makes light of his decrepit body on multiple occasions. Arnie’s colorful co-stars are all equally game with female lead Jaimie Alexander, Thor: The Dark World (2013), sticking close to her comfort zone, yet remaining convincing and affable, Zach Gilford, from television’s Friday Night Lights (2006), is great as the young headstrong rookie eager for excitement and Johnny Knoxville, Jackass: The Movie (2002), seems to be having too much fun on the set, slightly overplaying Dinkum, the clown with an arsenal of weapons at his disposal.

The egotistical Cortez, a slick Eduardo Noriega, The Devil’s Backbone (2001), plays well juxtapose Schwarzenegger, as the elusive younger villain pit against the veteran Sheriff. Let’s not forget about the splendid Peter Stormare, Bad Boys II (2003) — this man should really be developing a feature film based around his Call of Duty: Black Ops II ‘The Replacer’ character, created for the trailer for the game’s ‘Revolution’ DLC pack — who excels at playing crazy. Finally, Christina Leucas adds a pleasurable touch to proceeding as the oblivious diner worker Christie, who gets caught in the middle of a nasty gunfight.

'Get outta my way jackass!'
‘Get outta my way jackass!’

The Last Stand is a ferocious ride; a crazy Western action, a combination of old verses new, with Owens and his crew wheedling old-school combat weaponry — such as a Vickers Machine Gun, which Dinkum dubs his ‘Nazi-killer’ — whereas Cortez and his gang, in contrast, fire newer arsenal — such as Cortez’s two-tone SIG-Sauer P229 while several of Burrell’s henchmen are seen carrying Heckler and Koch MP5A3 submachine guns — creating that perfect blend for re-launching Schwarzenegger back onto the big-screen, capturing a sense of explosive 80s cinema in a contemporary action vehicle.

There’s nothing particularly innovative under the hot Arizona sun in the blistering, The Last Stand. Nevertheless, this entertaining flick is surprisingly much better than it ought to be, providing action junkies with precisely what they are searching for and proving that even after a lengthy hiatus, star Schwarzenegger still packs a heck of a punch.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Last Stand is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia