Reaction-Shot Review: The Last Stand

I’m a little confused as to why The Last Stand came in tenth at the box office last weekend, making only a little over $7 million. When I first saw the January 18th release date, my brain instantly said, “New Arnold. I will be there.” No ifs, ands or buts. After all, it’s the first Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in a decade. For me, that is the definition of a must-see movie.

So, why did barely anyone (keeping in mind that ‘barely anyone’ equals $7 million dollars in revenue) see it opening weekend? Is it because Arnold is too old to draw a crowd? That doesn’t seem likely, given that Liam Neeson is only five years younger than he is and Taken 2 grossed almost $400 million worldwide. That’s a ridiculous number for such a bad movie; when you consider that The Expendables 2 made $300 million, it seems to say the problem isn’t Arnold’s age. Most people don’t pay much attention to directors, so it can’t be due to the fact that The Last Stand is helmed by Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon. Are people just finding it hard to take him seriously after watching him play politics these past several years? Maybe so.

Whatever the reason, it’s a damn shame. While it’s nowhere near Arnold’s best, it’s a solid action flick that is worth the price of admission. Here’s why:

For starters, Kim Jee-woon has a great sense of style, and a lot of that makes the transition to his first American effort intact. It’s not as brutal or crazy as his last movie, I Saw the Devil, but The Last Stand has its moments: blood sprays in beautiful mists whenever anyone is shot, and at one point, Arnold literally rips a guy in half with a minigun while hanging out of the back of a school bus. It takes a while for the movie to build up to scenes like those, but once it does, they are glorious to behold.

The plot–as ridiculous as it is–is perfect for Arnold’s comeback: an escaped drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) hauls ass in a supercar at 300mph to the Mexican border, with only Sheriff Arnold between him and his freedom. The FBI agents chasing the supercar (Forest Whitaker among them) feel like they’re in a different movie: the action cuts back and forth between Arnold’s Podunk town and the coordinated effort by Whitaker and his men to apprehend the drug kingpin, with almost no interaction between the two until the movie’s almost over. The two elements don’t mesh as well as I’d like, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of watching Arnold tackle a man off of a roof. And nor should it.

Peter Stormare, a man whom I can never find fault with, plays the drug lord’s right hand man–he’s the one who has to deal directly with Arnold and his deputies as they screw up his plan to build a bridge for the supercar to cross into Mexico. It’s nigh-impossible for Stormare to play a normal person, but that always works to his advantage somehow: I can never get enough of his bizarre quirks and accent. It’s almost as if he’s from a different planet; one far more awesome than the one we’re on right now.

Unfortunately,  there are moments when it feels like everyone isn’t quite on the same page as far as how a scene is supposed to play out, which may have something to do with the fact that Kim Jee-woon doesn’t speak a lick of English. Though Kim tried to overcome the language barrier on-set by simply acting out what he wanted people to do, there are still problems with the final product. Most of the oddities occur in the dialogue between Arnold and his deputies (Luis Guzman, Zach Gilford, and Jaimie Alexander), but let’s be honest: nobody expects a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a stirring character study. (If that’s what you’re looking for, then I’d recommend Last Action Hero: he quotes Hamlet and throws a guy through a stained-glass window.)

Arnold himself is as you’d expect him: spouting a few one liners, telling people to get ready to kick ass, then kicking a lot of ass himself. He may have a few more wrinkle lines now, but he’s still a beast of a man, and he hasn’t lost that special charisma which has allowed his career to span three-plus decades. If you’re not a fan of his already, The Last Stand will probably not change that. If, however, you’ve been waiting for him to throw in the gubernatorial towel in favor of mopping the floor with some bad guys, you’ll leave wholly satisfied.

On the Arnold Meter of “Crushing-your-Enemies-and-Seeing-them-Driven-Before-You,” I’d place The Last Stand somewhere between Red Heat and Eraser. It may not be his best movie, but it’s well worth your time. Go support this one before it’s gone.
– George Bell


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