Two decades ago he wore a pair of Ray Bans and menacingly told a desk clerk that he’d be back. He’s back alright, but he’s old and rusty. Age doesn’t seem to be much of a problem though, because Mr Schwarzenegger (or his stunt double) still looks good firing a shotgun, crashing through glass doors and delivering terrible lines terribly.
Directed by Korean maverick Kim Ji-Woon who has made A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life, The Good the Bad and the Weird and I saw the Devil, The Last Stand exists purely as a vehicle for Schwarzenegger to slowly transition back to the big screen after a decade behind the Governer’s desk burying his sex scandal. This isn’t a big Michael Bay movie or a $200 trillion blockbuster that Arnold no doubt wants to make a return in, but a small, mostly brainless albeit fun little B-movie that brings back some of the charm of 80’s Hollywood. Whether that is a good or a bad thing depends on how much you liked Arnie’s films in your childhood.
The premise is as cringe-worthy and outdated as they come and the whole movie feels like Fast and Furious: Arnold Edition. The FBI fumbles its plans to move a dangerous Mexican crime lord (Eduardo Noriega) who manages to escape in a specially modified Corvette by driving at 200 mph without headlights towards the Mexican border. The only thing that stands between him and the border is a sleepy Texan town led by its Sherriff (Schwarzenegger) and an arsenal of guns. The majority of the movie spends its time going over its checklist of ‘Make Arnie fire a gun’, ‘Make Arnie hurl a one liner’, ‘Make Arnie a sympathetic hero’, ‘Make Arnie say Son of a bitch’ etc. Plonked in together are a bunch of lame subplots involving the Sherriff’s young deputy (Zach Gilford) who is bored of his job and a man in jail (Rodrigo Santoro) who was in a relationship with the Sherriff’s other deputy (Jamie Alexander). Writer Andrew Knauer also wastes too much time investing in the FBI operative (Forest Whitaker) and his deputies who spend the entirety of the film looking at computer screens, talking on phones and walking around to give the impression of tension in the air.
There is decent amount of action although the gratuitous gunplay and headshots seem out of place in the light of Aurora and Sandy Hook. It seems like Kim Ji Woon was put up as a puppet by Hollywood because there is absolutely none of the craft, humor and panache found in his earlier films. The ‘comedy’ is basically Arnie making fun of his own age, and while that worked to an extent in The Expendables 2, here it feels like a sly old man being self-deprecating to get hugs from young girls. The Last Stand is ultimately strictly for Schwarzenegger fans, and even most of those would be disappointed with this lackluster effort.
(First published in MiD Day)