Movie Review: The Last Stand

10 years.

That’s how long Arnold Schwarzenegger went between films where he played the lead. After 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, he left our screens and became the Governator. Sure, there were cameos along the way to keep us Arnie fans going (Welcome to the Jungle aka The Rundown, Around the World in 80 Days, the Expendables films) so now he’s back, just like he always said he would be.

But would his return be a welcome one?

ls poster

Here Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small town in Arizona, Sommerton Junction , near the Mexican border. With most of the staff away supporting the high school football team, Ray plans a nice relaxing day off.

Ray’s team includes Mike (Luiz Guzman) his right hand man who’s lazy and bored by the slow pace in town, Jerry (Zach Gilford) a young guy who craves excitement and Sarah (Jaimie Alexander), the most on-the-ball of his crew. Sarah however, does have a problem in that her ex, former marine Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) is in the local jail and who’s life after leaving the military is sliding out of control.

Of course, that isn’t going to happen and heading his way after a daring prison break is Cartel boss Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) who’s escaped justice in a souped up super car which is capable of ridiculous speeds. FBI agent Bannister (Forest Whitaker), is in pursuit and knows he must stop Cortez before he crosses the border and disappears, a situation made worse by the fact Cortez has snatched a female agent, Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) as a hostage.

The Feds alert the border towns, but discount Sommerton as the only way to cross is a massive gorge.

Ray becomes suspicious of Burrell (Peter Stormare), a shifty stranger in town and on his day off two of his deputies head off to a local farm after the milk doesn’t show up. They discover the farmer dead and that Burrell and his crew have been constructing a bridge over the canyon. During a shoot out, one of the crew is killed.

Ray decides to try and stop Cortez and Burrell’s men, but is told by Bannister that support won’t arrive in time. Ray deputizes Frank and Lewis (Johnny Knoxville), the village idiot who runs a gun museum, and they tool up to try and block the path.

Sarah (Alexander) and Frank (Santoro) prepare for the fight
Sarah (Alexander) and Frank (Santoro) prepare for the fight

Can they beat Burrell’s men in a shoot out and stop Cortez crossing the border?

As the synopsis tells you, we’re in standard genre country on this one. There’s a strong Western vibe to proceedings with the sheriff having to defend his town from the black hats. Arnie is well inside his comfort zone as the lawman facing unfair odds, and despite looking a bit more weathered than in his last outing, he’s still got the physical presence to pull it off and knows what he’s doing.

It’s hard to review an Arnold Schwarzenegger performance, because aside from the Terminator, every role is pretty much the same. The jobs and names change, but it’s the usual mix of physical power and cheesy one liners, and he delivers both here, even if it does feel a little watered down than previous efforts. The shootouts and fights are CGI-enhanced and the one liners aren’t as memorable or as funny as in other Arnie flicks (this is no Commando or Predator).

Arnie can do this in his sleep, and as a big fan of the Austrian Oak, it worked for me.

"I'm the sheriff" Arnie as Ray
“I’m the sheriff” Arnie as Ray

As with all the 80s action heroes’ recent work there are a couple of references to his advancing years, but it’s only hinted at a couple of times and for much of the film Arnie smashes through windows and trading punches in the same way he always did.

The film is quite good fun, it’s simplicity part of it’s appeal. The good guys are good and likable, the bad guys are evil, hissable cartoon figures. Subtlety is not the order of the day.

Noriega makes a good villain, hamming it up to great effect and ensuring that his cartel boss is thoroughly unlikable and scummy. He’s got the cocky swagger of a man who believes he is above the law, and exudes this cold, ruthless aura and suggests that he can be a ruthless enemy. It’s this cold blooded, vicious aura that means that while physically he’s no match for Arnie when they throw down, this edge, coupled with his quickness means that he’s a realistic threat when the two finally throw down.

Noriega as Cortez
Noriega as Cortez

Stormare does his sleazy, slightly crazy schtick again and is rather entertaining. Forest Whitaker is underused and mainly serves as exposition- giving the audience the info on how bad Cortez is and filling in Ray’s background as a tough LAPD officer.

The rest of the cast are alright with what they’re given, with Guzman and Knoxville on fine form as comic relief. I know Knoxville isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I quite like his turn as the town’s resident nut, and his goofy character amused me.

Knoxville in action
Knoxville in action

It’s all painted in broad strokes, and the action sequences have a cartoonish quality to them, bodies fly backwards, blood spurts up in the air and seemingly mortal wounds to our heroes are walked off with a slight wince followed by a half hearted gag.

Arnie’s done better, but then again he’s done a lot worse, and while it won’t change your life it’s a decent enough action movie and the kind of movie I’ll probably end up watching with my feet up when it’s repeated frequently on ITV4.

Verdict: It’s far from Arnie’s best work, and there are few surprises along the way, but it’s still a fairly fun, dumb action movie and nice to see Schwarzenegger back on the screen. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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