The Last Stand: A Flickcharter’s Movie Review
Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned in The Last Stand, a sort-of amped up, extra-violent version of Unstoppable. It’s not perfect, and starts off kind of slow, but once the film gets going it becomes the mindless fun you’d expect.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of the small border town of Sommerton Junction, AZ. It’s normally a peaceful place, but on his day off an escaped drug kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is making a run for the border from Las Vegas in a specially-made Corvette that can go as fast as 200 MPH without breaking a sweat. Armed with a federal hostage (Genesis Rodriguez) and a man-made bridge that can get him over the steep ravine, it’s up to Ray and his small squad of fellow officers to stop Cortez and his goons before he can taste real freedom.
This is the kind of film that Schwarzenegger can sell with his eyes closed. And even at 65, he proves that he is still capable of playing the action hero. He’s become a figure like John Wayne who can still kick ass and take names, and is given ample backup from a fine supporting cast. Forest Whitaker plays an FBI agent who loses Cortez, and portrays more than just the idiot agent. He’s actually given some fine moments to play, but his character could certainly have used more development.
As Schwarzenegger’s fellow officers, Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville both fulfill the comic relief as the deputy and the deputized (You have to see Knoxville’s collection of weapons to believe it). Jaime Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro have the love/hate relationship of the story that might be well-acted, but resolved too quickly and easily.
Then there is the fine work of our villains, led by Peter Stormare and Eduardo Noriega, who give a bad name to the town itself. Noriega in particular is quite a find as our main villain – coming off a little like Javier Bardem from Skyfall, but with a charm all of his own. He’s a treat to watch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to see more high-profile roles of his in the future.
Like many Arnold Schwarzenegger films from the past, this is one that has many laugh-out-loud moments as well as applause-inducing moments. It’s almost insane that the best moment actually belongs to an old woman and not Schwarzenegger. Ther are of course are some clever kills in between (A death involving a flare gun – seen in the red band trailer – is still as funny as it should be within the context of the film).
Although the film has many great scenes, what undoes it is its pacing at the start. It takes nearly 25 minutes to make sense of where it’s going, but once it fires on all cylinders, it’s a blast the rest of the way through with one terrific scene after another. Making his American debut, Korean director Jee-woon Kim (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) keeps Schwarzenegger and his cast on their toes (SPOILER: There’s even a brief appearance by the great Harry Dean Stanton, which seems all to brief), but he knows what he wants and manages to bring this truly American story to life on his own terms.
How Does It Stand Up to Arnold’s Other Films?
The Last Stand vs. Jingle All the Way
Comparing these two is almost like comparing oil with water. One is a comedy and one is a straight action flick. As a kid, Jingle All The Way was a favorite, but as an adult, it has also has true moments of annoyance in-between. Here, there’s just no contest: The Last Stand will take the victory.
The Last Stand vs. The Running Man
I have a soft spot for The Running Man, even though it’s considerably dated and totally off-the-wall. In many ways, it’s Richard Dawson who runs off with the movie more than Schwarzenegger, and the supporting cast does the better work. It also has some of the most annoying and cheesiest music of the 1980s, and isn’t quite as much fun as it should be. The Last Stand in many ways plays out just like it, but it’s also much better – and more fun. Another victory is in order for The Last Stand.
The Last Stand vs. True Lies
True Lies is the pinnacle of Arnold’s filmography in my eyes. It’s an extremely long action flick, but it’s also one that never lets up. Director James Cameron keeps the whole enterprise moving at a pace that never lets up. Some still feel that the Bill Paxton character goes nowhere, but when it ends with the kind of payoff it has, it almost makes up for the lapse. Plus, you have Art Malik playing arguably the best villain ever in a Schwarzenegger movie. True Lies is still not perfect, but it manages to be skillfully made and tautly entertaining. The Last Stand doesn’t stand much of a chance against it as a result (The aforementioned opening is part of the reason), and the truth is that True Lies is the better movie.
The Last Stand vs. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The other pinnacle of his filmography, T2 is one of the few sequels that is arguably better than the original, and for good reason. With Robert Patrick as the T-1000 and Schwarzengger playing the unlikely good guy assigned to protect young John Conner, it’s a sequel that improves on the original by following through with a complete story and an ending that is still as dramatic and sad as it was when I watched it for the first time as a kid. The Last Stand has a moment where one of its major characters is killed, but because we don’t get enough time to really love him, his death simply doesn’t have the same impact as the end of T2 does. Once again, that pesky opening also keeps it from overtaking T2, so T2 will take it by a decent margin.
The Last Stand vs. Predator
The last real gasp of the best of Schwarzenegger, Predator remains essential entertainment to this day with John McTiernan‘s fantastic directing. What keeps it ahead of The Last Stand is the fact that the pacing moves swiftly right from the start and never lets go. Plus, Alan Silvestri’s sensational score keeps it ahead of the pack, where Mowg’s score for The Last Stand just dissolves too far into the background to be memorable. These combined factors give Predator the easy victory!
So Where Does The Last Stand End Up on My Flickchart?
The Last Stand currently ranks 1352 out of 3600 movies on my Flickchart. While it might seem quite low at first glance, it’s actually a perfect ranking. Despite its opening flaws, this is still a terrific action flick that proves Arnold is back – and better than ever.