The Last Stand

Directed By: Kim Ji-woon

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, and Genesis Rodriguez

The Last Stand presents a very interesting question about classic action star Arnold Schwarzenegger.  After all, the Terminator is a little antiquated at the ripe old age of 65.  To make matters more interesting, it's now been ten years since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the last movie in which he starred.  Does Schwarzenegger still have the juice to light up the big screen?  Can this senior citizen still put on a decent fight sequence?  Do people even care for that matter?  If The Last Stand is any evidence, all these questions can be answered in the affirmative.

Druglord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is a convicted felon on his way to the big house.  Being escorted by the FBI, Cortez executes an elaborate escape plan with the help of his subordinates.  Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) and an army of law enforcement officials pursue him to no avail.  They can barely keep up with his ultra-fast Corvette C6 ZR1.  To make matters worse, he's taken Agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) hostage, so they can't just blow him sky high with explosives of some sort. Cortez is currently barreling down the highway at 200 miles per hour on his way to the Mexican border.  To get there, he has to go through the small town of Summerton Junction, Arizona.

For Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), his day off has been nothing but work.  Despite the fact that most of the townspeople have left town for a football game, trouble finds the sheriff when he notices two suspicious truck drivers on their way to New Orleans.  Then, the sheriff gets a late night call about an old farmer (Harry Dean Stanton) who's gone missing.  Finally, Agent Bannister gives the sheriff a call to let him know that Cortez might be on the way.  With all that's happening, the sheriff realizes that these events are not a mere coincidence.  The sheriff rounds up his deputies Mike, Sarah, and Jerry (Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, and Zach Gilford) and gets to work.  He's not going to let just anybody come through his town.  These cops are getting ready to go to war.

The Last Stand is a bipolar movie if I've ever seen one.  The first act totally sucks, while the second act is completely and utterly awesome.  In the first half of the movie, director Kim Ji-woon gives the backstory of events leading up to the confrontation at Summerton.  In doing so, he's trying to make a straightforward action movie, which just doesn't work.  It's bland and boring.  On top of that, he's underutilizing his best resource, the Governator himself.  The first half of the movie is watching an inept Forest Whitaker get outmatched and outrun by Eduardo Noriega.  This is not what we came to see.  The Last Stand is meant to be a silly affair with the sheriff opening up a can of whoopass.

The second act rights this wrong.  When Ji-woon unleashes Arnold Schwarzenegger and his motley crew of deputies, things quickly get silly, and The Last Stand ends up on the right track.  Spewing cheesy one-liners and kicking ass, he gives us an old school popcorn flick that just clicks.  Schwarzenegger has still got it because he can definitely hold his own at his age.  As Sheriff Ray Owens, he's kicking ass, taking names, and holding down his town.  While he's a guy who should never ever utter the words "Howdy, fellas" again, The Last Stand shows that there's certainly a place for the Austrian actor in modern cinema.

During this second act, Ji-woon blends action, comedy, and a whole lot of gore into a really fun film.  The comedy is what makes this a winning combination for him.  Ji-woon really delivers big laughs by leveraging his supporting cast and the townspeople of Summerton.  As Deputy Mike Figuerola, Luis Guzmán is always funny.  Whether Guzmán is sporting a vicious sword or offering sound reasoning for cowardice, he keeps the laughs coming.  Shooting some beef and showing off his "Nazi killer", Johnny Knoxville doesn't disappoint as Lewis Dinkum.  As for the townspeople, they have limited roles but deliver the funniest moments.  I won't spoil these comedic gems, but I have to say that Mrs. Salazar rocks!

The only thing that irks me about The Last Stand is Forest Whitaker.  Six years ago, this guy was on top of the world on the road to the Oscars for his performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.  Now, he's playing second fiddle in Schwarzenegger’s comeback film.  There's something very wrong with this picture.  This Academy Award winner has fallen far from grace if the best he's got is a mediocre performance as bumbling FBI agent John Bannister.  It's so unfortunate because Whitaker is so talented.

Because The Last Stand is a bit of a bipolar film, I'm of a mixed mindset on the rating.  The first half would most certainly get a 0.09% rating, while the second half of the film hits all the right notes as solid popcorn fare.  Reflecting on it all, you definitely don't need cocktails for this film, maybe a few beers though.  The Last Stand gets a 0.06% rating.  Once this movie becomes the cheesy throwback film it's meant to be, The Last Stand finds its calling.