There are already snappy one-liners a-plenty going around about Arnold Schwarzenegger being “baaack.” But anyone watching “The Last Stand” will feel almost immediately that he never went away. The former governor of California returns in his first starring action role since “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” in 2003, now playing the sheriff of a small Arizona town who, in a slight nod to “High Noon,” must face a whole lot of bad guys coming his way.
But this is no throwback Western. It takes place now, with some of the action in glitzy Las Vegas, where a Mexican cartel boss makes a spectacular escape while being moved to a prison, some of it in sleepy little Sommerton, Ariz., and a lot of it on the road between those locales, as well as on a stretch toward the Mexican border.
That action involves scads of guns – all sizes and shapes, but a Vickers machine gun nicknamed Vicky practically demands your attention – a high body count, and in place of a typical Western’s fastest horse, an insanely fast, 1,000 horsepower Corvette ZR1.
That’s bad guy Gabriel Cortez’s (Eduardo Noriega) vehicle. But don’t worry, Sheriff Owens has the keys to his own road monster, a Camaro ZL1 (Can you say GM product placement?).
Just showing those two cars in separate scenes is enough foreshadowing to let you know there’ll be a wild chase between them. In fact, the film is chock-a-block with hints of what’s to come. The sheriff has a day off and says he’s looking forward to “a quiet weekend.” Yeah, right. Town goofball Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) has secretly put together a weapons museum. Think that might come in handy later on?
Directed by Korean filmmaker Jee-woon Kim (“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” “I Saw the Devil”), the film features big jolts of numbing violence as well as a gaggle of sight gags. The script even manages to work in a couple of well-placed references to immigration and aging. This is Kim’s first English-language film, but he certainly shows his knack for keeping up a furious pace.
Schwarzenegger still holds his own as an action star, though this is more of a repertory cast situation than he’s dealt with in the past. And while he pops out a few one-liners, those too, thankfully, are in shorter supply this time.
Other cast members don’t fare as well. Jaimie Alexander and Luis Guzman are there simply to, in her case look pretty and act tough, and in his case, be the comic relief. Knoxville, too, is mostly around for some laughs. But Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega adds a nice dose of charisma to the otherwise dangerous villain he plays.
Just enough back-story information is given on the two lead adversaries – the sheriff and the cartel boss – to make their eventual clash interesting. But too much time is spent on an FBI investigation and the agent heading it (Forest Whitaker), when it would have been a lot more fun to concentrate on the older hero and the younger outlaw.
Ed Symkus writes about movies for GateHouse Media.
“THE LAST STAND,” rated R
Written by Andrew Knauer; directed by Kim Jee-Woon
With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jaimie Alexander, Johnny Knoxville
The Last Stand’ proves Schwarzenegger is still a star