Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t starred in a movie in ten years, since Terminator 3. In The Last Stand, his first major foray onto the silver screen since he ended his time as governor of California, Arnold (normally I’d refer to a person by their last name in an article, but I’m not going to subject myself to typing out Arnold’s last name more than once) plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small border town in Arizona. He’s a former narcotics cop from the mean streets of Los Angeles, and the wistful gazes with which he paints his little town in the opening scenes are evidence that he prefers this life in small town America to the one he left behind in the LAPD. It’s either that, or Arnold was just thrilled to be back in a starring role. I can’t tell, but it’s easy to picture the film’s director, Kim Jee-Woon, instructing Arnold to express his real feelings of satisfaction at being back in the spotlight for these scenes, as getting Arnold to display any emotional range at all is more difficult than flying the space shuttle.
That’s not a knock on Arnold. Well, not much of one. After all, I never, not once, went into an Arnold Schwarzenegger (whoops, that’s two) flick expecting an Oscar worthy performance. Action flicks aren’t about nuance. They’re about violence and blowing shit up. Seeing Arnold in anything else is a waste of mine, and everybody else’s, time (I’m looking at you, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Junior, and Jingle All the Way. In fact, I’m not looking at you. I’m going to pretend those films never happened, like Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards or Miles Davis coming out of retirement in 1981. My goodness, did I just equate Arnold Schwarzenegger [that’s three] to the greatest basketball player of all time and the greatest jazz musician of all time? Yes. Yes, I did. And you know what? That’s okay, because while Arnold is not the greatest actor of all time, he has a solid case for being the greatest action star of all time, and that has to count for something, right?).
Going in to The Last Stand, a viewer could expect the film to be a throwback to Arnold’s work from thirty years ago, and while it is an action flick, it’s clearly from this era. It brings the stupid from today’s Hollywood, not last century’s. I don’t know the origins of the plot or when Arnold was engaged as the star, nor am I going to bother to research that, but this film looks like it was cobbled together in about five minutes from the leftover bucket of clichés out back of the Lionsgate offices. Nail some simple story arcs and characters together, sprinkle in some gunfights, and finally, add a bankable star. Hmm, it’s still a little thin in the taste test. Maybe a pinch of comic relief (Johnny Knoxville) will give this flick the flavor it needs. Shake, stir, bake for 107 minutes on high, and there it is, The Last Stand.
So, the story.
An evil Mexican drug lord by the name of Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped from the hands of the FBI in Las Vegas. His getaway vehicle is a Corvette ZR1, specially modified to break 1,000 horsepower (HA!). Cortez is speeding south on US 95 towards the border, hoping to make his way across to freedom. He’s on a beeline to a heavily guarded checkpoint, but Cortez is no dummy. The checkpoint is a decoy. Instead, he’s going to use a temporary bridge erected nearby by his henchmen over a canyon in the sleepy town of Sommerton, Arizona, whose sheriff happens to be…Arnold Schwarzenegger (4).
In a confrontation with Cortez’s men, Arnold loses one of his deputies, and that makes this personal. No way is some fugitive drug lord going to muscle his way through Arnold’s town on his flight to Mexico. No. Fucking. Way. So Sheriff Arnold recruits some help and prepares his town for the confrontation to come. The final act is one long gunfight, and a fairly bloody one. Kim didn’t go for ultra-real gore like that which Sylvester Stallone opted for in Rambo. The flying blood and limbs in this one are graphic, but still largely cartoonish. It’s a strange effort at straddling the line between fun and appalling. A lot of viewers could be turned off by this, as it’s still pretty heavy violence, but still, it looks fake.
There’s nothing all that remarkable about The Last Stand, and plenty of moments of stupidity, but it’s one of those films that gets by on being nothing more than what it is. Quite frankly, as a viewer, I feel lucky. This thing could have been just awful. Instead, it’s shitty in a good way. The Last Stand is a much better film than Alien: Resurrection.