The Last Stand Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone used to have one of the biggest rivalries in Hollywood. The two blockbuster stars have appeared in several memorable movies apiece, playing iconic characters that will last the ages. The actors themselves on the other hand… it looks like time has caught up with and overtaken them.

There was once a period of time where Schwarzenegger and Stallone battling each other at the box-office would be cause for celebration, and it looks like they are trying to do the same with Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand and Stallone’s Bullet to the Head. But this isn’t 1982 any more. This isn’t Conan The Barbarian versus First Blood.

The Last Stand offers Schwarzenegger’s first lead role since 2003’s Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, having spent his time in the interim entering American politics and away from the silver screen. The film seems to be a perfect match for where Schwarzenegger is at this point in his career; playing a small-town sheriff a bit past his prime, looking to just enjoy his day off when all sorts of trouble comes to town.

Of course, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) appears to be in over his head, with his town being the final destination of drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), on the run after an elaborate escape from FBI custody. On Cortez’s tail is FBI Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), who was there when Cortez first escaped. And Cortez makes a rapid escape in a modified Corvette racing south towards Owen’s town at breakneck speed.

The town is also host to a band of Cortez’s men led by Burrell (Peter Stormare), a six-shooter toting antagonist to Sheriff Owens and his deputies Jerry (Zach Gilford), Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) and Mike (Luis Guzmán). Johnny Knoxville also appears in the movie, playing the obvious role of comic relief as gun-nut Lewis.

The entire concept sounds good on paper: Vanishing Point meets High Noon. The execution however… is sloppy. For one thing, the modern day High Noon has already been perfected with Die Hard, the quintessential action movie. The modern day western has been perfected time and time again, and this isn’t one of those times. And Cortez’s escape is far from Vanishing Point, every single one of his scenes being increasingly boring.

For a film boasting the return of Schwarzenegger in a leading role, we realise that we haven’t really missed him at all. One of his very first scenes showcases some of the worst line readings I’ve seen in recent years. In fact, the film is full of bad line-readings throughout. Schwarzenegger shows his age in this movie, something that’s used well in the concept, but also makes us wonder why we have to see Schwarzenegger be so lacklustre.

The action itself varies in quality. Director Kim Ji-woon of The Good, The Bad, The Weird fame certainly tries his best with the material he’s been given, but the gunfights, car chases and other action scenes feel lacking. He does do well to help inject humour though, which is the one real saving grace of the film.

The Last Stand is funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. Knoxville does well to play the same role he always plays, there are some nice visual jokes throughout, and on the rare occasion a line hits the target.

What is all the more laughable however is the entire film itself. From the title sequence that ends so abruptly, to the several times you think Schwarzenegger is about to have a flashback but doesn’t (instead opting for exposition through dialogue). Then there’s the ridiculous concept of a drug lord escaping in a stolen Corvette concept car that doesn’t need to stop for petrol once and is an integral piece to the most ridiculously unrealistic SWAT team foiling I have ever seen! The Last Stand is ridiculous, and not in the stupid-fun The Expendables way. It’s also a huge Corvette commercial more blatant than Will Smith peddling Converse All-Stars and Audi concept cars in I, Robot.

The screenplay is utterly atrocious, following every single action trope in the most telegraphed ways imaginable. This is screenwriter Andrew Knauer’s first screenplay, and it shows. It is not original, but derivative, and any action movie aficionado has probably seen every single one of these conventions done better elsewhere. There are no shocks or twists here. As soon as X happens to Y you know what Z is. There’s no suspense, no conflict, no strong character moments.

The women are treated as weak and are sidelined, the men don’t even have much of a macho male-fantasy about them, so it’s even weak in that regard. The most heinous crime is the villain. Action movies really need memorable villains, especially those in Schwarzenegger movies. Even the movie’s mini-boss, Borrell (Stormare), while still interesting in his use of a six-shooter, evoking the western atmosphere of the movie, comes off extremely weak.

Cortez (Noriega) is the worst though. Hans Gruber he is not. With the most generic method of making him stand out, Cortez soon becomes very lame, very fast. There are only so many times one can watch him shift gears. Or turn the headlights off. Or banter against the one-dimensional female passenger. There is nothing to him other than money. Even Bad Boys 2 had a brilliantly constructed drug baron antagonist compared to this, and I wouldn’t usually use Bad Boys 2 as a positive example (Funnily enough, Stormare, also shines in Bad Boys 2. I would have preferred a Bad Boys 3 to this movie, which definitely says something).

The best performance in this film definitely comes from Forest Whitaker, and even then he phones it in. He plays the type of role he’s certainly treaded down before, so it’s not new ground for him, but he makes a good job at it. Same can’t be said for Schwarzenegger. He has a couple of awesome action moments, but for the rest of it he’s sluggish, he’s not charismatic at all, and the audience will swiftly remember that he’s not actually that great an actor.

The years haven’t been kind for Schwarzenegger when it comes to acting. His coming revival is far from the likes of Bruce Willis’ relative consistency. A Good Day To Die Hard looks to at least put Willis through his well-worn Die Hard paces, but The Last Stand leaves Schwarzenegger without a leg to stand on.

If you want to watch The Last Stand… I would suggest watching Die Hard instead. If you want the to see the return of an action movie great then just wait till A Good Day To Die Hard is released. And if you want to watch Schwarzenegger in a lead role, just watch anything that isn’t this movie.

Except Junior.

Because why would you want to watch Junior?

The Last Stand is out now in cinemas. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker and Eduardo Noriega and is directed by Kim Ji-woon. Andrew Knauer writes the screenplay.

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