Friday, August 8, 2014

#1,453. The Last Stand (2013)

Directed By: Kim Jee-woon

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville

Tag line: "Not in his town. Not on his watch"

Trivia: Liam Neeson was offered the role of Ray Owens but passed

After taking a few years off to run the state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger made his triumphant return to the big screen with director Kim Jee-woon’s 2013 action/thriller The Last Stand. And while it takes a little time for the former Governor to settle in, the movie itself is, from beginning to end, a solid bit of entertainment.

Hoping to close out his career with some peace and quiet, Former LAPD officer Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is now Sheriff of Sommerton Junction, a sleepy Arizona border town where nothing exciting ever happens.

That is, until now.

It all began when Mexican drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escaped from FBI custody. After taking Agent Ellen Richards (Génesis Rodríguez) hostage, Cortez hopped into a modified Corvette and is now speeding his way towards Arizona. While investigating the murder of a local farmer named Parsons (Harry Dean Stanton), Sheriff Owens and his deputies discover that some of Cortez’s cronies, under the leadership of top henchman Thomas Burrell (Peter Stormare), are constructing a military-style bridge across the border, which will allow their boss to cross safely from Sommerton Junction into Mexico. Owens alerts FBI Agent John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker) of his findings, only to learn that backup won’t arrive in time to prevent the fugitive’s escape. With only Deputies Mike "Figgy" Figuerola (Luis Guzmán) and Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) at his disposal, Owens enlists the help of former Marine Corps Captain Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), a slightly odd gun collector, then digs in for the gunfight he knows is coming.

Some may argue that even in his prime Schwarzenegger wasn’t one of Hollywood’s best actors, but he was certainly better than what he shows us early on in The Last Stand (his line delivery in the first few scenes is awful). Fortunately, he still handles the action sequences like a pro, and in a movie as thrill-oriented as The Last Stand, that’s all that really matters. In fact, The Last Stand is just as exciting when Arnold isn’t on-screen; at various times throughout the film, we’re shown the FBI’s failed attempts to stop Cortez, the best of which involves a police road block, a couple of bulldozers, and about a thousand rounds of ammunition. The real fun, however, comes when Cortez finally reaches Sommerton Junction. It’s at this point we realize, even at this late stage of his career, Arnold can still kick some major ass.

The intense action scenes, coupled with a pair of solid turns by Stormare (as the deliciously evil henchman) and Knoxville (you can’t help but root for Lewis, no matter how goofy he may seem), make this a fun movie to watch. The Last Stand may not be vintage Schwarzenegger (a la The Terminator and Predator), but as a vehicle to mark his return, Arnold couldn’t have done much better.

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