The Last Stand (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Last Stand (2013)

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That's more like itAndrew DISLIKE BannerConsidering how much build-up there was to The Last Stand as Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to form I was only reminded that the inexorable march of time spares no soul.  That might strike you as a heavy-handed way to start a review of a film featuring Johnny Knoxville in a fire fight while wearing a spare helmet from the set of Aguirre.  I was placed in the situation where I had to make interest for myself when the movie I'm watching has little to give.

So, since it's been a little over ten years since I last saw Schwarzenegger in a film, the idea of time moving forward is one that appealed to me in a movie that was stuck spinning its wheels so often.  The Last Stand is a dull, overlong at barely an hour and a half, comically limp exercise of a film that absolutely should not have been the calling card of director Kim Ji-Woon.  He's another one of those Korean wunderkind directors that has a reputation of excellence before him.  I've only seen one film of his, the exquisitely fun The Good, The Bad, The Weird and that film, with its fusion of western and, well, weird, gave me hope that he would stick the landing in America.

I can't fault Ji-woon for how the film turned out.  When he's given reign to let loose on an action scene The Last Stand finally finds its feet and is entertaining in quick, joyful bursts.  But when he's finally allowed to let loose it's after seventy minutes of some of the most overdrawn place setting I've weathered this year.  I don't mind films taking their time to set up motivation and plot, but after fifteen minutes behind the wheel of supercharged car of a multinational drug lord I started to lose patience at a disconcerting rate.

Game plan: I lay down for half the conclusion and get up long enough for a quip or two.

Game plan: I lay down for half the conclusion and get up long enough for a quip or two.

The Last Stand isn't stretching for any storyline benchmarks.  Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) loves his small town and its collection of weapon collecting weirdos (Knoxville), actors playing Deputies who deserve better (Luis Guzman), and even lesser known officers whose mortal fate you can discern from how often they appear in the trailer (Zach Gilford).  Ray's idyllic surroundings are threatened by the recent escape of a multinational drug-lord (Eduardo Noriega) who is going to escape through his town with the help of his eclectic henchman (Peter Stormare).  There's also the FBI task force headed by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) who is of so little use their presence in the film beyond the drug-lords escape baffles me.

First of all, if you've been keeping count that's seven different notable characters, each with their own motivations and eccentricities, without even adding in the supporting cast for each of them.  If this film were a turkey you would get a Stove Top headache from how overstuffed the movie is with characters.  What's worse is that none of them have anything of substance to add to the film, they just hit the same beats over and again.

Take the drug-lord.  He speeds away in a specially powered car after being busted out of a convoy with a carefully placed giant magnet (which would be a great detail in a more cartoony film).  Then he maneuvers around a blockade and drives for about ten minutes.  Then he maneuvers around another blockade and drives for about ten minutes.  Then he maneuvers around a helicopter and drives for another ten minutes.  I am as riveted writing this as I was watching it.

Knoxville and Stormare are the only two people who understand the silly fun they could be having.

Knoxville and Stormare are the only two people who understand the silly fun they could be having.

Eventually, Ji-woon has some fun with the blockade Owens and crew form to stop the evil man and his henchmen.  I loved the way the rock fueled Morricone-esque soundtrack punctuates how final every bullet shot is.  Knoxville is also the savior of the second half because, craft aside, he's the only one that is having any fun with the shootout.  Then there's Arnold, who gets to get some respectful jokes out in honor of the very funny townsfolk who just don't want to leave their homes - including the old lady with her 300+ porcelain doll, throw rug, and painting collection.

It's those details with the town that Schwarzenegger, and Ji-woon, would have rather spent their time.  Schwarzenegger perks up at the opportunity to calmly explain why the customers at the diner should flee from the impending firefight, and Ji-woon loves to find ways to make the townsfolk, and the town itself, into incidental weapons.  These moments have a great sense of humor and cartoonish honesty about them that is lacking anywhere else in the movie.

I'm sad to report that this is still a total drag.  When Schwarzenegger finally gets one of those written-just-for-him one liners at the end you can mouth the sentence right along with him it's so predictable.  The charm still seems to be there, I just hope that someone finds a better project to close out his career.

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The Last Stand - TailThe Last Stand (2013)

Directed by Kim Ji-woon.
Screenplay written by Andrew Knauer.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Stormare, and Johnny Knoxville.

Posted by Andrew

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