The Last Stand brings Arnold Schwarzenegger back with punches and guns
‘The Last Stand’ is nothing more or less than an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, with absolutely everything you’d expect from that.
Sometimes our best days seem behind us, the past glories of time gone by and a younger, more energetic self. Sometimes excitement is overrated, when it crosses the line into trauma. And sometimes you just want to see a drug lord get punched in the face.
The Last Stand (from South Korean director Jee-woon Kim) is the first movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in something more like a leading role since he got into politics. So don’t expect some sort of great acting from him here. The story is dirt simple. Ludicrously evil druglord Gabriel Cortez has escaped FBI custody in the fastest car ever made and is headed for the Mexican border, where his team of minions (led by chief minion played by typically evil Peter Stormare) is preparing sneak him across the border. The only things that can stop him? Forrest Whitaker and his team of reasonably competent FBI agents! Ha, ha, no, no, they barely do anything other than make phone calls. Almost had you there.
Of course the real way to stop him is Sheriff Ray Schwarzenegger, a former LA narcotics cop retired to a small Arizona town because it was too stressful and bloody in LA. He’s joined by his ragtag team of archetypes and buddies, including “Generic White Guy” (Zach Gilford), “Generic Hot Girl” (Jaimie Alexander), “Generic Short Mexican” (Luis Guzman), “Generic Crook with a Heart of Gold” (and also Sarah’s — oh that’s the generic girl’s generic name — ex-boyfriend), and “Generic Idiot with a Surprising Collection of Guns” (Johnny Knoxville, playing Johnny Knoxville, except in Arizona). Everything that’s introduced in an obvious way gets paid off in exactly the way you expect it to, but that’s part of the fun. Cortez is almost literally twirling a mustache, while Peter Stormare’s character has a delightfully evil laugh. Yeah, there’s a bit of a bland femme fatale from beautiful Agent something or other (Genesis Rodriguez, last seen in Casa de mi Padre) and that’s sort of boring, really.
The movie takes a bit too long getting going, setting up character arcs that won’t matter, or showcasing a bit too much of the FBI guys who barely matter but screw up constantly. But once the movie gets going, it’s a car smashing, gun shooting, profanity throwing, head exploding blast of a time. When it’s a battle of “which accent is Peter Stormare using” (who’s Swedish but seems to be putting on a bizarre Southern drawl) versus Arnold’s classic “I only can speak English, and only with this accent,” it’s just good, bloody fun. Eventually you get past the initial difficulty of Arnold trying to act with subtlety, and he brings back his classic charisma, taking over the screen, even with his advanced age. A few nods to this aspect of his character are included, just so you don’t totally ask about it. But suspension of belief is the name of the game here.
Don’t expect much brilliant acting from anyone else, although Zach Gilford and Jaimie Alexander are pretty good in other things, they are what they seem to be here — although Luis Guzman does have his share of laughs. Arnold seems unstoppable and implacable, and nothing at all is unpredictable — except how crazy the shootouts get. It’s not quite classic Schwarzenegger, but it’s not quite latter day Schwarzenegger either. It’s a good compromise.