‘The Last Stand’ movie review: Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in big-screen action


It’s been a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Terminator 3 – with only a handful of cameo roles in the interim as he served as governor of California – but he’s back in action with three films scheduled for 2013 and another six or eight in pre-production, including new Terminator and Conan films. 

If The Last Stand is any indication, however, well, Arnold might have been better off staying in politics. This is as generic and disposable as anything the star has ever done, with big guns, bigger explosions, plenty of violence (of the CGI variety – squib work is at a minimum here), and even a hand-to-hand fight scene by the end. The plot is entirely irrelevant, even though the film spends ages establishing itself.

Still, it’s nice to see Arnold back in the saddle. Charming, actually. Whether fumbling over his lines, most of which are self-referential one-liners, shouting unintelligibly, manning a gatling gun, or just strutting around and smirking, The Last Stand is at its best when the star is on the screen. He’s the only reason to watch the movie, and he isn’t even on screen for enough of it.

That’s because a whole lot of the film is thankless exposition, involving an FBI agent played by Forest Whitaker, who is transporting a dangerous criminal, Mexican cartel kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega). Cortez makes a daring escape in Las Vegas, kidnapping another FBI agent (Genesis Rodriguez) and taking off towards the Mexican border, plowing through roadblocks along the way. Meanwhile, another baddie (Peter Stormare) is building something in the middle of the desert.

And just like that, we’re halfway through the movie and Arnold hasn’t done a damn thing. He plays Ray Owens, sheriff of the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction. We know exactly where the movie is headed – Ray’s gonna have to take on Cortez himself – but it sure takes its sweet time getting there. Still, the final half hour pays off in reasonably effective fashion.

On Ray’s side of the law are Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford), Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander), Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzmán), Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro), and Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), the village idiot who just happen to have a warehouse full of vintage weaponry. 

The director of The Last Stand was Jee-woon Kim, the Korean director behind I Saw the Devil and The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. Those were good movies. This one is not, and I’m not so sure what happened. It’s a workmanlike effort: clean and efficient and utterly unmemorable, with seemingly no directorial influence. Any one of a few hundred other action directors could have made the same exact movie.

Tone is a particular casualty: instead of the serious-minded action film that Arnold typically delivers, this is a cheesy effort in which even the violence is presented comically; in other words, it’s another Expendables-like goof-off. Something like Collateral Damage was genuinely funny because of how serious it took itself; in pushing the humor too hard, this one gets more groans than laughs.

The Last Stand isn’t particularly offensive in any way, but it never reaches the level of mindless, gleeful entertainment that even Schwarzenegger’s bad movies achieve. I’d have to rank it among End of Days or Red Heat as the star’s weakest films. For Arnold fans, however, it’s probably good enough just to see the star back in action. But he better up his game next time around.

The Last Stand


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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