LITTLE ROCK Nobody goes to an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie to hear his line readings that aren’t wisecracks and putdowns or to gaze at the Austrian Oak’s subtle facial expressions. If you buy a ticket to The Last Stand hoping age has made Schwarzenegger as gifted an actor as Christoph Waltz, perhaps I could sell you some oceanfront property in Conway.
In his better movies, Schwarzenegger is the eye of a storm. Directors like Paul Verhoeven and James Cameron managed to get the best out of him by surrounding him with all kinds of chaos: gun play, unearthly effects or basically any force foolish enough to think it could knock Ah-nuld off his sturdy feet.
Korean director Jee-woon Kim (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) has apparently learned the right lessons that his predecessors had to teach because he loads the film with car chases, flying lead and a slight disregard for the rules of engineering.
Kim and screenwriter Andrew Knauer may be making what might be dismissed as a “dumb action movie,” but their approach to the property damage and bloodshed is actually consistently clever.
They acknowledge that their leading man is in his 60s (he has to watch his paunch and to use reading glasses to examine a crime scene) and even find a great way to explain how a small-town Arizona sheriff can get an Austrian accent. The quip that emerges from his lips is the best one he has delivered in 20 years.
For The Last Stand , Schwarzenegger’s lawman Ray Owens may have left the savage streets of Los Angeles behind decades ago, but an even greater evil is headed toward his little border town at 200 miles per hour.
Mexican drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Spanish thespian Eduardo Noriega from Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone) has escaped from FBI custody and has a trigger-happy army on both sides of the border to ensure his passage. While it might be tempting to send a Predator Drone after his custom getaway Corvette, he has a hostage (Genesis Rodriguez) in the passenger seat.
To face Cortez and his brutal henchmen, Owens has to depend on his tiny squad of deputies (Zach Gilford, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander), many of whom are under trained and lack his expertise in dealing with well-armed thugs. They get some help from a weapons enthusiast (Johnny Knoxville), whose love of things that go boom might disturb the NRA.
No, Schwarzenegger is unlikely to deliver an Oscar acceptance speech, but he and everyone else have their tongues firmly in cheek (that’s not an Austrian thing). He’s also surrounded by dozens of talented people like Guzman, Peter Stormare (as one of Cortez’s thugs), Harry Dean Stanton and Forest Whitaker (as the FBI agent in charge of damage control), who can do the dramatic heavy lifting while Schwarzenegger beats people up or shoots them.
Yes, it has been 10 years since Schwarzenegger was the star of a film. But The Last Stand is a pleasant reminder of how he came to be a star in the first place. He still looks like he’s having fun teaching painful lessons to bad guys, and it’s hard not to share his pleasure.
The Last Stand 84 Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Eduardo Noriega, Zach Gilford, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton Director: Jee-woon Kim Rating: R, for strong bloody violence throughout, and language Running time: 107 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 38 on 01/18/2013
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