As a child, my first R-rated film was The Terminator – a quintessential piece of cinematic history – and it was merely the first of other films that would become tent poles of my life. Commando (prepare for World War III). The Running Man (I’ll be back). Twins (The first rule in a crisis situation). Total Recall (get ready for a surprise!). Kindergarten Cop (It’s not a tumor!). T2: Judgment Day (hasta la vista, baby). Last Action Hero (rubber baby buggy bumpers!). True Lies (you know my handcuffs? I picked them). Though there have been a few films in which he has made an appearance since taking office in California, The Last Stand appears to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s true return to cinema.
Wow. I’m honestly not sure where to begin. The editing? The overused character types? The best thing about this picture are the numerous, and clever, action sequences. Sadly, they are strongly diminished by all of the damn holes/poor character choices. I think I understand why the Rotten Tomato score plummeted.
Let me paint you a slightly spoilery picture:
FBI Agent: I need to call the sherriff of this small town near the border just to do my due diligence. There’s no way that this drug cartel leader, who has already demonstrated that he’s incredibly clever as evidenced by his means of escape via misdirection obviously inspired by Ocean’s 11/Leverage, is going to try to get to the USA/Mexico border through this small town, but I want to cross my t’s.
Ahnold: This is the Sherrif.
FEB: We’re sending all of our resources to your neighboring town that is already well protected against people crossing the border illegally (as we made clear by exposition before I made this call), but I wanted to let you know that a drug cartel leader escaped our custody and may be headed your way. We’re going to send in a small SWAT team of…
Ahnold: I’m kinda busy right now, so [click]
FEB: Did he just hang up on me?
Ahnold: [talking to a deputy] That was the FBI. An escaped drug cartel leader may be headed this way, but it’s cool, I hung up on him before I told him about the suspicious guys I saw earlier today and the dead body we’re investigating now. Speaking of, this dead body and those strange men AND that escaped drug cartel leader – can’t be a coincidence.
I have absolutely no issue with the idea that Arnold’s Sherriff Owens has previous tactical experience when he tells one of his deputies that he used to work in LA in the Narcotics division. I have no issue with a rag-tag group of individuals trying to defend their small town. But the film was dripping so badly with overused concepts, I felt flooded by the end.
- The deputy who can’t shoot a gun properly or do a license plate search wants to transfer somewhere with more action.
- The female deputy who is dealing with her drunk, didn’t-live-up-to-expectations ex who is spending the weekend in jail. (Did I mention he did two tours of duty in the military…?)
- The semi-crazy townie with more guns then sense.
Without getting spoilery, can you figure out what happens to them from the above? Yeah, me too. Before any of it happened. To me, this is all lazy storytelling. It sought emotional payoff where we didn’t need one. Stallone’s The Expendables series has this issue as well, but it makes up for it by keeping the emotional story small and the focus where it needs to be. No one really cares why the action is happening in any of these movies, but don’t just throw a bunch of crap on a plate and call it dinner. If a man breaks a window and gets glass stuck deep in his leg, he’s likely not going to be able to keep fighting for long without treatment. Especially if you throw him out a window, have him run a while, and then get sliced up and stabbed again. My “suspension of disbelief” meter has a limit. The Last Stand hit it within the first twenty minutes.
On the positive side, Schwarzenegger looks, and acts, like he can take and give out a beating. In fact, the fight at the end had to be the highlight, brief though it was. Personally, I would have found a different use for the handcuffs; but in an all out brawl, Schwarzenegger is a beast. He moves impressively well for someone who hasn’t made an action movie in years, and remains someone I’d watch as a lead. But perhaps, that’s the nostalgia talking.
Final Score: 2 out of 5
Worth seeing on the big screen to maintain the impressiveness of the action sequences, but do so at a discount. No more than $5, if you can help it. Otherwise, Redbox or Netflix are excellent alternatives. Ultimately, this movie doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before and it doesn’t frame it well. Just a few different choices and maybe the mayhem wouldn’t have been so bad. But then, who wants to see a movie where things go right?
The Sorcerer and The White Snake (depends on area release)