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The Last Stand (2013)

| January 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

The magic of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the thing that made him a star all those years ago, is the fact that he is such an enigma to the moviegoing audience.  It is his oddly exaggerated physique, his oddly angular face and his one-liners filtered through a heavy Austrian accent that made him perfect for comic book action pictures.  He knows what we know, that he has such an odd screen presence that we could never take him seriously as a dramatic actor.  With that, he has always done the smart thing, he has kidded his persona and been employed in pictures that play off of that.  Like Mae West or Groucho Marx or Buster Keaton or Marilyn Monroe, he doesn’t play a variety of roles.  He shows up, and plays the same persona that we expect.  What you see is what you get, and we love him for it.

For a few years after his last (and sort-of unfortunate) trip to The Terminator well, his best years seemed to be behind him.  Now, having taken a six-year detour into politics, he finds himself back in lead of an action movie once again, a little older, a little weather-beaten, and there’s some melancholy to the fact that when he is investigating a dead body he has to put on a pair of glasses, but you know what?  He’s still got it.

His effort to return to the genre is not a major triumph but it proves that he hasn’t gotten too old for the part.  In The Last Stand, he plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small Arizona border town called Sommerton Junction, a town so small and out-of-the way that Google Maps might not have found it yet.  This is the kind of place where everyone knows each other and the local color is provided by dimwitted yokels and gun-nuts probably because there is little else to do.

Outside of Sommerton, a violent threat is headed for the small town in the form of a nasty international drug lord named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), who has just escaped from custody and is headed for Mexico in a souped-up high-performance Corvette C6 that can top speeds of 200mph.  Cortez is outrunning the Feds (led by Forrest Whitaker) and is aided by his own private SWAT team ready with every weapon and tactic known to modern arms.  This is one of those High-Powered Team of All-Star International Terrorist, the kind that always befuddles law enforcement but are no match for a guy with a six-shooter.  What is different here, unlike most modern action pictures, is that the bad guys really are threatening.  They are violent, they shoot first and we feel a sense of danger.

Ray gets the news that Cortez’s army is headed for Sommerton Junction in order to clear a path for their boss so he can get across the border.   So, he arms his small police department, which includes some great movie clichés like The Beautiful Girl (Jaimie Alexander), The Overweight Mexican Comedy Relief (Luis Guzman), The Fallen Military Hero (Rodrigo Santoro) and the Goofball Gun Nut (Johnny Knoxville).  All of these characters are expected action movie clichés, but none slow down the plot.

What you get here is your nothing bigger than your basic Western plot.  The bad guys ride into town and the good guys defend it.  There’s even the classic moment of the good guy and the bad guy in the middle of the street for a stand-off.  This is not the most original idea in the world.  It is clichéd, excessively violent, and probably about an hour longer than it needs to be but the movie is so funny and so entertaining that it hardly matters.

The Last Stand is a high-energy, and very violent action picture.  It might be interesting to see whether this movie or Django Unchained is responsible for more flying bullets and splatters of blood.  Without Arnold at the helm it might well be forgotten, but if it proves nothing else, it proves that he has the chops to head an over-the-top action picture even well into his 60s.  It is not the most significant movie in the world but it makes you glad to see him out of politics and back on the screen.  Arnold, it’s good to have you back.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Comedy