Wednesday, January 30, 2013

REVIEW: The Last Stand

thelaststandAs a comeback vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, THE LAST STAND is as forgettable as it is serviceable. In his first starring role since TERMINATOR 3 in 2003, Arnold plays Ray Owens, a former LAPD cop who left the big city to become sheriff of Somerton Junction, a sleepy Arizona border town. But when he receives word that a dangerous drug lord may attempt to pass through his town to try and cross into Mexico, he and his deputies set up their own resistance.

Some wild action sequences keep the first half of the movie interesting -- first the drug lord escapes from the FBI in Las Vegas in grand fashion, then leads them on a merry chase across the desert highway in a souped-up Corvette. Meanwhile, a dopey mystery involving the drug lord’s henchmen secretly building a bridge to Mexico keeps Arnold occupied. But in your head, you know an epic shootout, with Arnold front-and-center, is coming, and that keeps you going. When the bad guys roll into town and the guns start blazing and R-rated blood starts to splatter, things get pretty fun for a little while. On the downside, the full extent of this fun is sabotaged by some truly awful acting and dialogue (not to mention a plot riddled with as many holes as the parked cars that are constantly shot up for no apparent reason). Not that a Schwarzenegger film needs to be par with Shakespeare -- but half of Arnold’s appeal is removed when he doesn't have a single truly quotable line ("I'm the sheriff!" is no "Hasta la vista, baby").

Arnold still has a commanding presence, but unlike, say, PREDATOR, where he was backed up by the awesomeness that is Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura, he doesn’t get much help here. At this point, I think we can safely put Johnny Knoxville out to pasture -- outside of the Jackass world, he is pretty useless. Luis Guzman provides the real comic relief and arguably the film’s best “epic” moment. Forest Whitaker is bizarrely over-the-top as the worst damn FBI agent in the whole wide world, who, of course, foolishly underestimates Sheriff Owens’ abilities. As the villainous drug lord, Eduardo Noriega is sufficiently sleazy. And while Genesis arnoldRodriguez is kind of hot, after this and last year’s MAN ON A LEDGE, she is quickly asserting herself as one of the more terrible actresses working today.

Schwarzenegger may yet have another great movie in him, but THE LAST STAND is merely a mild diversion that falls far short of greatness. On the other hand, when the drug lord’s aforementioned souped-up Corvette goes head-to-head with Arnold behind the wheel of a stylin' Camaro (the high point being a cat-and-mouse car chase in a cornfield, of all places), it suddenly becomes quite an effective ad for Chevrolet -- so maybe that’s what this was about all along. Well played....

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