Tuesday, May 21, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray: Arnie is sort of back in undemanding "Last Stand"



The Last Stand (2013)
107 min., rated R.

By the standards of dumb, junky, over-the-top action movies, "The Last Stand" is better than it needs to be. This will be the first time the former governor of California has headlined a movie in a decade (2003's "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"). His uncredited cameo in "The Expendables" and beefed-up part in "The Expendables 2" don't count. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said he'd be back and he meant it, looking a bit weary since his heyday but still game enough at 65 years old to bear arms, engage in hand-to-hand smackdowns, and spout his corny Arnold-isms as a hard-ass sheriff.

In the small Arizona border town of Sommerton Junction, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) obviously knows everyone, except for a couple of new faces (one being Peter Stormare's). It seems these suspicious truckers are in cahoots with Mexican drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), who's just escaped federal custody in Las Vegas with a little help from his goons. In a souped-up Corvette ZR1 (it's faster than any chopper, we're told), Cortez is headed straight for Mexico with a federal agent (Genesis Rodriguez) as his hostage. If FBI Agent John Barrister (Forest Whitaker) can't keep this nasty character detained or even tailed, the sheriff and his motley crew of deputies (Zach Gilford, Jaime Alexander, and Luis Guzman), a jailed-turned-deputized drunk (Rodrigo Santoro), and a nut named Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) with a cache of weapons will have to be ready.

Korean director Kim Jee-woon (2011's "I Saw the Devil") makes his English-language directorial debut and seems well-suited for this relatively pleasurable shoot-'em-up western. Speaking of western, "The Last Stand" has the kind of classic stand-off on a main street, barricaded by cars on either side and all of the townsfolk seemingly out of town except for a few in a diner and an armed granny who takes out trespassers. It's not until the last 45 minutes that the pic actually feels like an '80s-style action throwback with Arnold tackling baddies and falling through a store canopy and throwing off his trusty one-liners (his response to "You fucked up my car!": "You fucked up my day off!"). Plenty of brutally satisfying carnage ensues with bodies flying and exploding. Aside from the federal-agent stuff and a Sommerton cop losing his life, none of this is taken too seriously but it never goes the full tongue-in-cheek route, either. The real highlight: a stylish, exciting, and even amusing cat-and-mouse car chase between the sheriff and Cortez through a cornfield that climaxes on a bridge.

To call screenwriter Andrew Knauer's characters paper-thin types is beside the point (and that goes for Schwarzenegger's Ray Owens, whom we learn next to nothing about), but at least they are distributed to a cast of character actors (along with a random cameo by Harry Dean Stanton). Whitaker looks tenacious and speaks with a straight face, including lines like, "We've got a psychopath in a Batmobile." Stormare gets an accent and runs with it, but he's playing a perfunctory caricature at best. And be grateful Knoxville's goofy mugging and "Jackass"-style shtick are kept to a minimum — his bathrobe-clad Dinkum actually climbs a telephone pole before Cortez rolls into town. "The Last Stand" isn't particularly special by any stretch, although it gives Arnie a decent-enough return to form. Delivering some fun on its own B-movie terms, it could have been worse.

Grade: C +

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