After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With his role as the Governator over, Arnold is back in theatres in his own standalone film, The Last Stand. By that I mean he isn’t merely relegated to the one-liners and cameo bits we’ve seen him in with the Expendables franchise. It’s been a long while and I think because of this if not having acted for awhile carried rust, Arnold is still in the process of shaking that off. That or really, he’s just old, which is justifiable too. Despite that fact, it still impresses that he’s doing his own stunts at his age but Arnold’s return is, truthfully, only marginally fun.
I didn’t have my expectations set very high walking into this film, but that’s not to say I wasn’t excited. I remember watching the trailer last year and began strongly anticipating the release. Heck, I even remember his first and last real cameo from Schwarzenegger in The Rundown (2003). Where many invariably saw him handing over the ‘action hero torch’ to Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). I remember Arnold leaving that bar scene, wondering when exactly he would return. Fast forward almost a decade later and ‘he is back’. He may not be in top form (yet), but if you were to look at his filmography today, you’d see he has a plethora of projects to come. To name a few there is the rumored Conan sequel, The Tomb starring alongside Sylvester Stallone, David Ayer’s Ten and a possible Terminator 5. It may just end up being a question of what an older Arnold will bring to the big screen.
I think a lot of the keys to success will be about not getting Arnold to do too much, I’m not calling it old age. I’m simply calling it believability. While we are all inherently know to have a level of suspension of belief when watching movies, I think it plays to the matter of relevancy for a film. As much as people will gripe about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull (2008), I felt that the film successfully characterized itself as an ‘era piece’. Harrison Ford’s age was explained through that notion and it simply situated things to fit. However, at the same time moving forward we have to wonder – how much of these types of films play on nostalgia all the while, actually crossing that line of “as much as I love the idea of it, maybe it’s time to put this bed.” If there is any level of success for these second wind actors, I think good films can come from realizing their own limitations. Only time will tell however.
The Last Stand which is directed by Kim Ji-woon, probably most notable for his film I Saw the Devil (2010). Overall I found the film was surprisingly a lot more rooted than I expected. By that I mean I found the casting to be balanced with memorable faces like Forest Whitaker and Luis Guzman, to new blood like Genesis Rodriguez (Man on the Ledge, 2012) and Jaime Alexander (Thor, 2011 and Thor: The Dark World, 2013) and even Johnny Knoxville who plays a minor comedy oriented role. The Last Stand reflects an almost sincere level of realism which grounds Schwarzenegger’s character and this isn’t just for him, it’s for everyone. All of it is far from perfect, but simply going in I didn’t expect the amount of character development I saw. It’s quick and contrite, yet for an action based film it’s a rarity I think. The Last Stand doesn’t completely benefit from this as the movie still seems ‘average’ at best and plays up to the title of the film. Meaning that everything that comes before the last 30 minutes of the movie is presented to simply set up ‘the last stand’ at the end. I found myself appreciating the descriptive violence of the movie, although I’m sure people will complain about the use CGI blood. I just think it’s the nuances like this that give a more tonal appreciation for The Last Stand. It holds back the level of gratuity but still presents a respectable amount of reality without shying the audience away from what it’s portraying.
Overall the film doesn’t try to overextend its reach, nor does it try or aspire do more than it can and it’s a good thing. The story was written by Andrew Knauer and is simple enough to allow, and justify, how all of these characters intertwine in a sensible manner. Throw in and add Arnold back into the mix and there is your entire marketing plan. There is one thing I wish would go away in movies and that’s the character almost breaking the fourth wall with one-liners. While this idea is intended comedy I feel that it becomes predictable and cheesy. It was that level of self awareness that detracted my impression of the movie and just because it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie doesn’t mean we need that to happen. Believe me, it’s okay to try new things and not live through the nostalgia, despite how much we love it.
In the end, The Last Stand is at best worth a cheap Tuesday admission if you’re clamoring for something watch at the theatre.
I would give The Last Stand, a 5 out of 10.