Movie is Schwarzenegger's first starring role in eight years
He plays border town Sheriff Ray Owens
It's the first U.S. effort for director Kim Jee-woon
Editor’s Note: This movie review may contain spoilers.
The Governator is back! Retired from politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking a leaf out of his “Expendables” buddy Sylvester Stallone’s book and setting out to prove that he can still kick butt at 65.
“The Last Stand” represents his first starring role in eight years, and it seems there’s plenty more gas in his tank. The timing for a primed, pumped, itchy-trigger-finger shoot-em-up leaves something to be desired, no doubt, but with Nicolas Cage unaccountably AWOL this January, Arnie has the knucklehead R-rated action field pretty much to himself. What’s more, “The Last Stand” brings it. If you park your brain outside, and double-park any misgivings about vicarious gun mayhem right alongside, it’s passable fun.
It’s a modern-day Western – a souped-up and dumbed-down “Rio Bravo,” if you will – with Schwarzenegger making like John Wayne as border town Sheriff Ray Owens, the last man standing between a runaway bad guy (Mexican drug baron Eduardo Noreiga) and his freedom. Charting a spectacularly erratic 24-hour course, the movie juggles self-consciously hokey small-town comedy with slick (or at least semi-slick) high-tech chase scenes as the road-racing desperado leads Forest Whitaker and the feds on a merry chase through the Southwest in his prototype Corvette 01.
The auto action seems a transparent pitch to sell high-end sports cars and inject a little momentum in a movie that’s equally content to dawdle over its morning coffee, shooting the breeze with amusing (or at least semi-amusing) supporting players like Ray’s deputies, ornery Mike (Luis Guzman in the Walter Brennan role), bumbling Jerry (Zach Gilford), and sexy Sarah (Jaimie Alexander).
Johnny Knoxville gets unaccountably prominent billing for little more than an extended cameo as a guy named Dinkum, a screwy gun nut with a penchant for cavalier headgear. He’s excruciating, but almost puppy-like he’s so eager to please.
The same might go for director Kim Jee-woon, a talented Korean known for macabre ghost stories like “A Tale of Two Sisters,” whacky adventures (“The Good, the Bad, the Weird”), and grisly cop thrillers (“I Saw the Devil”).
His first U.S. effort is full of bold, broad comic book strokes – some of them pleasingly original, like a car chase through a cornfield, the husks of corn thudding against the windscreens like oversized bugs. Listen to how he picks out the sound of a helmet rolling across the pavement. That’s a filmmaker alert to his environment and the tools at this command. But there’s just as much that’s ham-fisted or tin-eared. At best these are stereotypes we might recognize from other B flicks. There’s never a whiff of authenticity, except maybe when Harry Dean Stanton appears for a cruelly brief bit part as a cranky local farmer.
The uninspired score by Kim’s countryman Mowg doesn’t lift the so-so climactic shoot-out any, but the movie’s tongue in cheek humor will buy off most of the target audience. And Arnie? He’s indestructible.