Movie review: The Last Stand
Arnie has little to work with, to the detriment of the entire film
Posted: February 6, 2013
He's back, and he brings the big guns. Schwarzenegger's first lead since stepping down as governor is too serious to enjoy.
There is a kind of cheap thrill one gets reading the title of the latest film with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the cast. After a life that has seen him go from Mr. Universe to Mr. Governor but a film career that hasn't offered him any kind of hope since the early '90s, Schwarzenegger now takes the lead in a mediocre film with lots of guns called The Last Stand.
As we saw with his brief appearance in the worst film released here in 2012, The Expendables 2, he is often best cast when he doesn't take himself too seriously. Since Last Action Hero, in which he appeared as himself and played the role of a character based on the ones he often plays and was very clearly defined as fictional, the star of a film inside a film, he has not been in anything of note and frankly ought to stay away from "serious" roles.
The Last Stand makes the mistake of giving him a part that requires him to be serious and fails in its mission to entertain. It will be another forgettable piece of filmmaking in the Schwarzenegger canon - one that wasn't always uninspired; on the contrary, when he appeared in Total Recall or Terminator, his characters were often memorable because of the actor's ability to humor us with a quip, no matter how dumb.
In The Last Stand, he plays the role of Sheriff Ray Owens, who has moved from Los Angeles to Sommerton, a quiet town in Arizona close to the Mexican border. His days are peaceful and his deputies spend much of their time shooting guns at hunks of ham in the open air.
Directed by Kim Ji-woon
With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eduardo Noriega, Luis Guzmán, Forest Whitaker
But all is about to change. Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the head of a Mexican drug cartel, has escaped while in police custody in Las Vegas and is heading down to the border at the speed of light, or something close to it, in a souped-up Corvette. Federal authorities and, more importantly, Owens, realize they have little time to stop this unstoppable 190-mile-an-hour beast of a machine. Roadblocks and multivehicle barricades are destroyed by Cortez's own militia, and with an onscreen ticker provided to remind us of the fast passage of time, the thing turns into a High Noon wannabe.
In the meantime, Owens prepares for Armageddon as he, his deputies and gun-loving friends gather as many assault weapons as they can to face off against the drug lord of doom. Overnight, Cortez's henchmen have constructed a footbridge across a ravine that marks the U.S.-Mexico border, but, instead of dismantling it, Owens is intent on creating as much havoc as possible before Cortez can reach the bridge and very easily cross into Mexican territory.
Of course, that is never going to happen, because the film has to find reasons to use the massive firepower it so desperately wants to warm us with on these recent cold winter nights. Owens, about whom we initially know very little, takes on a mythical quality as he swoops in at the right time when his young colleagues are under fire and protects them by shooting off enough ammunition to make the NRA and gun manufacturers positively giddy with excitement.
Despite the presence of Jackass's perennial loon Jonny Knoxville, however, few actors turn in performances worthy of mention. Forest Whitaker is the federal agent in charge of the operation to capture Cortez, though he escaped under his watch, and has no faith in the sheriff of a small town to get the man, even though he is his only hope. Harry Dean Stanton appears as a farmer in a single scene, but his natural, quiet gravitas is at odds with the entire picture, which finds any excuse to spray bullets. And the young police officers of Sommerton are pretty much forgettable.
The only way to deliver a film at the same level as expected by an audience that will laugh, almost involuntarily, when Schwarzenegger appears onscreen - for no reason other than seeing him - is to give him lines that demonstrate some self-awareness. The Last Stand does this only once, and that is very late in the film, when, having finally caught the bad Mexican, he delivers this kind of line, one that brings down the house.
The rest of the film, however, is a rather mindless combination of Fast and the Furious driving and hardcore border-town violence. The Last Stand excels at very little and while Schwarzenegger films have a life of their own, this one is tedious at best, because South Korean director Kim Ji-woon believes all the guns will make up for his inability to properly utilize this actor.
André Crous can be reached at