The Last Stand is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first lead movie role in almost a decade. Fans of The Austrian Oak will not be disappointed – as it’s also his best film since True Lies in 1994.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of Sommerton Junction, a sleepy little town on the US border with Mexico. Owens, a former LA law enforcement badass is nearing retirement and he’s just seeing out his end of days surrounded by his band of kooky (and slightly incompetent) deputies. Things move into high gear when he learns that an escaped drug dealer (Eduardo Noriega), with little care for collateral damage is heading his way in a super-fast sports car. Owens is no running man, so he rallies his troops and prepares to make The Last Stand.
The Last Stand is constructed around Schwarzenegger’s mighty frame. He’s the force at the centre of the action, but not always the focus. The film’s impressive supporting cast (Forrest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman, Harry Dean Stanton and er…Johnny Knoxville) also get time to shine. There’s enough plot development for all of these characters, that at times, The Last Stand comes across as a bumper episode of television series – nobody gets a raw deal. As good as this supporting cast is, the audience is there for Schwarzenegger – and he doesn’t disappoint.
A decade in politics means that Schwarzenegger is back – older and more grizzled than before. He looks great. The aging process has given him added depth, a world weariness that suits this new stage in his career. Schwarzenegger has always been the best special effect in his own movies, but this time he also brings a great performance. He may never win an Oscar, but The Last Stand sees Schwarzenegger with added nuance. The Terminator may be his career-defining performance and while Conan The Barbarian may be his most physical, The Last Stand sees him gives him his most emotive role yet.
Jee-Woon Kim (I Saw The Devil) knows how to stage action, and the Korean director brings a fluent style to each set piece. There’s a kinetic energy, yet an understanding of geography on display here that Hollywood action movies normally don’t have. Today this type of film is lost in flurry of blurred camera work and a succession of quick cuts. Kim knows that he’s making a modern western, a tale with where the film’s star has become as mythic and ionic as the time and genre that he is paying homage to. In a way, The Last Stand is an update of High Noon, both feature men of honour making a stand against a seemingly unstoppable evil that is hurtling toward them.
The Last Stand is a top tier entry into action genre. It’s strictly old-school, with limited use of CGI (for bloody action) and well choreographed action. Kim’s actioner has a deft touch that balances humour, thrills and moments of genuine emotion that other films in the genre often lack. That would be impressive for any modern action film, but it’s even better that it just happens to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. His return to the big screen after a decade away reminds us that he is a cinematic force to be reckoned with. If Schwarzenegger continues to make films with the same high quality as The Last Stand then it would seem that he may just achieve critical success to match his box office glory. He may just become the last relevant action hero standing from the genre’s ‘glory days in 80s and ‘90s.
It’s good to have you back Governor Schwarzenegger.
The Last Stand features an armoury stocked with great features. A 30 minute making of, mini-docs and deleted and extended scenes make this a great package. Good stuff.