It's been ten years since Arnold Schwarzenegger took his sizable boots to behinds as a leading man in an action film. Terminator 3 certainly wasn't memorable, nor were his cameos in Stallone's geriatric Expendables. The Last Stand is truly his first time back on the action horse, and I must say, old faithful still has the steam to get it done. The film is surprisingly entertaining. It's got some humorous moments, actual stabs at serious drama, and the kind of wicked, no holds barred violence you expect Arnie to deliver. Korean director Jee-woon Kim deftly sets up Schwarzenegger to play to his strengths. The script by Andrew Knauer and Jeffrey Nachmanoff surrounds him with able character actors that lift The Last Stand to solid entertainment. It moves swiftly to a classic good versus evil, bullet riddled finale.
Schwarzenegger stars as aged Arizona Sheriff, Ray Owens. He's the top lawman in a sleepy border town call Sommerton. Ray lives a quiet life keeping the peace with a motley crew of well meaning, but decidedly inexperienced deputies (Louis Guzman, Zach Gilford, Jaimie Alexander). Their sleepy town becomes the showdown of ages when drug cartel kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) spectacularly escapes FBI custody and makes a run for the Sommerton border. I won't ruin how he does this, but if you're into cars, you're in for a smashing ride. Forest Whitaker costars as the head FBI agent racing to stop Cortez's escape into Mexico. Ray and his deputies are outgunned and outmanned against ruthless thugs. They'll have to dip into the pool of locals, especially one Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), to stop Cortez and his army.
The Last Stand does a great job of bringing the various storylines to a rewarding climax. There's a lot of characters and speaking parts. Arnie doesn't do well with loads of dialogue so they keep it short and simple with him. Leaving the wordplay and humor to the likes of Guzman and Knoxville. But it's also deadly serious. Not everyone makes it. The cops and criminals take their losses. Eduardo Noriega is pretty good as the c*cky, but clever drug lord. Forrest Whitaker holds up the heavyweight acting, while the female leads, Jaimie Alexander and Genesis Rodriguez are much more than distressed heroines. There's a lot going on in The Last Stand. Director Jee-woon Kim deserves a lion share of credit for putting all the parts together so well. I really look forward to seeing what he does next.
Perhaps Schwarzenegger's greatest achievement here is the acknowledgement that he is older, but still jacked enough to pulverize ninety-nine percent of the population. He's not quite the killing machine of old. Showing more leadership here, but still pulling the needed triggers and belting out perfect one-liners. It was good to see him back. I loved his films growing up. It's great to see that he was smart enough to do a film like this one. The Last Stand will surely be a crowd pleaser.