Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"The Good, The Bad, The Weird" and "I Saw The Devil"
When the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the hemisphere, Gabriel Cortez, escapes from an FBI prisoner convoy with a hostage in tow in a specially outfitted Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) is forced to rely on Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) for help. Owens is a former LAPD officer who resigned from his post following a bungled operation that left him wrecked with failure and defeat, and it is he and his small town force that is the last stand against Cortez before he slips across their sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction into Mexico forever.
Director Kim Ji-woon, whose visually stylistic and praiseworthy acted films range from horror ("A Tale of Two Sisters") to revenge-driven tales ("I Saw The Devil"), makes his Hollywood debut with "The Last Stand", and while his trademark accomplishments are mostly absent here, "The Last Stand" is still one film that does justice to Arnold Schwarzenegger and manages to entertain at the same time.
The premise of "The Last Stand" is your standard dangerous-outlaw-versus-retired-officer-of-the-law-brought-out-of-retirement (wait, has that been done before?), with the villainous Gabriel Cortez (played by Eduardo Noriega) being a cheap knockoff of Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva in "Skyfall". A twist is thrown in half-heartedly, while the county police and FBI are portrayed as helpless dimwits against the fierce army of gang members. However, Kim Ji-woon successfully distinguishes his action flick from the rest of the herd by making full use of the Governator. You will not be subjected to cheap one-liners by Schwarzenegger (note: "The Expendables 2") nor a R-rated blood-fest where the level of visual style and entertainment run parallel to the escalating body count (note: "Rambo"). Instead, Schwarzenegger has the time of his life delivering quote-worthy punchlines such as "I'm the sheriff" and "I've seen enough blood and death to know what's coming", that you cannot help but root for him.
"The Last Stand" would have been completely repulsive if not for Kim Ji-woon's veteran direction and Schwarzenegger's charisma. Although the South Korean director seems a little lost in his first foray into Hollywood, but he understands Schwarzenegger's capacity for action unlike that of Simon West, and finds his footing by using the star's "battle weary-tough guy" persona as a starting point, then builds up his character's heart and his plot from there. The "mentor" angle hits home the point that Ray Owens has seen too much bloodshed to want to live out a quiet life in Sommerton Junction, but he understands Jerry Bailey's (Zach Gilford) desire for something more. The film recognises that Ray Owens is old, and there is even a scene in the film where Ray Owens says "I feel old" after crashing through a glass door, so it gives the director room to drag out the action sequences and give each character their five minutes of fame, as opposed to sending in Schwarzenegger to wipe the floor.
It is a shame the good guys are less sharply drawn. Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzmán get the comedic roles as gun-museum owner and wannabe Deputy Lewis Dinkum and Deputy Mike Figuerola, but unfortunately the two remain cuckolded by the stereotypes
that they are outfitted with. Bad as that sounds, thankfully, their stereotypes never had to resort to demeaning fart jokes or self-humiliation. Meanwhile, Jaimie Alexander forms a sparky double-act with Rodrigo Santoro as ex-lovers who had a fallout due to the latter's irresponsibility; both roles are necessary in helping Schwarzenegger's Ray Owens in his stand-off but could have easily been replaced by better actors. Forest Whitaker plays a credible FBI agent reminiscent of his "Criminals Minds: Suspect Behavior" Sam Cooper, and Daniel Henney makes a special appearance as a fellow FBI agent.
Kim Ji-woon's stylistic visuals are largely absent here, with mostly conventional action cinematography filling in the blanks. At least the director knows how to keep it not looking like a music video by using background music very sparingly. However, Kim Ji-woon certainly knows how to film a good old hand-to-hand combat scene, as seen in the showdown between Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik in "I Saw The Devil". The fistfight in "The Last Stand" is sufficiently nail-biting and bloody enough to feel like the climax that the past 80 minutes was building up to.
Schwarzenegger's not been given a proper role since "The Last Stand", much less the lead since "Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines". There is plenty of rip-roaring action and genuine laughs, there is also a lot that could have been improved on, such as the scripting and characterisation, but Kim Ji-woon's action film is a decent entry in the action threshold.Cinema Online, 20 January 2013