The Last Stand

One Man Arnie


Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

The Last Stand is a blood specked, teeth-gnashing, gun powder marked soiree of discharged shell casings and exit wounds – well, the last forty minutes, anyway. The first hour is a hodgepodge of stifled acting and incensed phone calls with salivating federal agents. The Last Stand has a pretty pedestrian premise, to be polite, and exists solely for the climactic machine gun rattling finale where more windows get shot out than an entire catalog of Clint Eastern westerns.

South Korean director Kim Ji-woon has an eye for the macabre and sinister, crafting films with pointed fangs, such as the gore inundated I Saw the Devil and the pulpy, unrelenting A Tale of Two Sisters. For his first English language film, Ji-woon fingerprints are barely visible; the caustic, unpredictable touch of the director is replaced with a wooden, prefab way of filming that McG would have been proud of (did McG ghost direct this?)

The Last Stand is about a weary, creaking sheriff named Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) that was once a ripped, body-snapping LAPD officer in the late nineteen-eighties. Now, much older, he has decided to burrow into the tumbleweed rolling town of Somerton Junction, far from the fierce, seething streets of Los Angeles. Of course, in grandiose unexpected fashion, Owens happens to be in the wrong place when a fiery, escaped sociopath burns rubber through his city en route to the solace of the Mexico border.

The first hour of the film is an interminable soundboard of a souped up Corvette whooshing through desert highways, as the aforementioned drug lord speeds away from police while simultaneously having a very Hans Gruber goatee. Arnold is rarely in the first sixty-minutes of the film, and instead, most irritatingly, we have to endure an onslaught of the same car, over and over, zooming and churning and spinning down a road. The film is like watching your friend play Need for Speed on a video game console for an undetermined amount of time.

When the finale takes place there is splintered wood, crumbling bricks, sweaty brows and torn flesh. The climax is a mosaic of bloodshed and barbed quips that are the meat and potatoes of action films from the 1980s. Here, unabashedly, Arnold is in his element as he does implausible things such as fire shotguns with one hand and body slam villains on bridges. All of the wonky, physics defying ballyhoo is a fun, smirk driven melee of good, old fashioned action fun. The hyper-violence is an inspired dance of imploding buildings and daffy one liners that will delight its desired demographic.

The problem with all of the mad capped, adrenaline fueled mayhem in the last forty-minutes is that the first sixty are lolling and inexcusable; if the first half of your film doesn’t work, but the second half does, what you have isn’t an entire film but a short. The filmmakers, based on the title and the lackadiasical, ineffable first half, only made this movie with only the finale in mind – and that’s a problem.

All said, it’s still enjoyable to see the venerable Arnold taking down droves of baddies with a scythe of gunfire. And Scwarzenegger has never been an expert thespian, but here, especially, his delivery of dialogue is clunky. There’s more rust on him than the belly of the Titanic. But the film is still an enjoyable diversion if you walk in during the last forty-minutes. Set your watches accordingly.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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