- Rated R
All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s been just over a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last major film role, but now that the Governator is finished with his political career, you can be sure that moviegoers are going to see plenty of the iconic action hero in the coming years. He probably had a lot of offers to choose from for his highly-anticipated return to the big screen, but it’s hard to imagine a more perfect vehicle than “The Last Stand.” Directed by Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon (making his English-language debut), the movie not only reintroduces Schwarzenegger as an older, wiser action hero, but it harkens back to earlier films like “Commando,” when you could get away with being silly as long as it was fun.
Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens, the sheriff of a sleepy Arizona border town trying to enjoy his day off when the arrival of a shady trucker (Peter Stormare) rouses his suspicions. Later that day, a local farmer is found murdered, and while out investigating his death, Owens is contacted by FBI agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) warning him that an escaped drug lord named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) may be heading through his town en route to Mexico. Certain that the events are related, Owens enlists the help of his deputies (Luis Guzman and Jaimie Alexander), a disgraced Iraq War veteran (Rodrigo Santoro), and the gun-crazy village idiot (Johnny Knoxville) to prevent Cortez from crossing the border.
Though Schwarzenegger was able to dust off some cobwebs with his supporting role in last year’s “The Expendables 2,” he’s still a little rusty here, although it actually adds to the charm of his character. It’s also a very age-appropriate role (something Clint Eastwood might have done if he was still in the action game), and while he’s obviously not in the same physical shape that he was 20 years ago, it’s a nice change of pace to see the actor playing someone that’s vulnerable for once. The rest of the cast is solid, if not particularly memorable, although Johnny Knoxville does earn a handful of laughs in a role seemingly inspired by Kim Jee-woon’s oddball Western, “The Good, the Bad, the Weird.” The villains are admittedly a bit campy (especially Peter Stormare, boasting one of the worst accents in recent memory), but that's to be expected from a movie like this.
The first half of the film is a pretty slow burn as Kim patiently builds up to the climactic showdown between the small-town cops and the bad guys, and though there are some entertaining set pieces along the way, the movie would have benefited from a stronger sense of urgency. Once the film arrives at its big standoff, however, “The Last Stand” is given a much-needed adrenaline shot that cranks up the intensity and violence, more than earning its R rating with some cool gunplay. The movie is far from Kim Jee-woon’s best work, but it’s a mostly enjoyable U.S. debut that will hopefully inspire audiences to track down some of his previous films, especially the excellent revenge thriller "I Saw the Devil." It also serves as a welcome return for Arnold Schwarzenegger, because no matter how you feel about the man, Hollywood just hasn't been the same without him.