“I’m Back” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
The leader of a drug cartel busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff. This is Rumor Control, here are the facts! I’ll Be Back! Isn’t it funny how a simple line of dialogue that was used as a threat would not only become a Schwarzenegger’s most famous and well known line but it actually defines his very career! After ten years of being “The Governator” Schwarzenegger is back in his first leading role since Terminator 3 with The Last Stand, a film that is also the Hollywood debut of South Korean director Jee-Woon Kim (director of the creative and entertaining Western “The Good, The Bad, and The Weird”). But after all this time does Schwarzenegger still have what it takes to lead a movie or should he have stepped out of the limelight permanently? Let’s find out!
We’ll start with the weakest aspect of The Last Stand, which is it’s story. The story isn’t bad, per say, however it’s very generic and flawed in many aspects. For starters the story itself is about a drug lord named Gabriel Cortez who breaks out of an FBI convoy taking him to a maximum security prison. Cortez’s plan is to use his incredibly fast automobile (that can go 200 MPH!) and make a B-Line for the Mexican border and due to the FBI’s unbelievable incompetence they can’t catch him… I’ll get back to that! Elsewhere, small town sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) catches wind that Cortez is coming through his town to make his escape and decides to gather his deputies to confront Cortez, a last stand if you will. This aspect of the story is generic and we’ve seen it God only knows how many times, but despite being formulaic and generic the main gist of the plot is OK… It’s everything else about the plot that bugs the Hell out of me. First and foremost is the FBI’s incredible incompetence when Cortez escapes. Now the breakout I can forgive but it’s everything after it that annoys me. The FBI has great difficulty catching Cortez because of his car. In the trailers we hear Forest Whitaker refer to Cortez as “A psychopath in a Batmobile” giving us, the audience, the impression that Cortez’s car is decked out with weapons, an assortment of gadgets and bullet proof armor; add on to the fact that in a few trails we see the car grinding on a highway rail… Grinding! OK, that makes sense as to why the FBI is having trouble capturing him, it’s a really cool idea too… Too bad that’s not the case! No, Cortez’s car is just really, really, really, really fast and Cortez is a really, really, really, really good driver, that’s it! This makes the whole “OOOOH Dammit! He’s so hard to catch!” Thing aggravating since there is literally dozens of ways they could stop him. They could shoot out his tires, destroy the road in front of him, shoot his gas tank, throw a spike chain in his path or flat out destroy the freakin’ car! Oh wait, there’s a captive FBI agent in there which causes a problem for some reason. Yes I know they have to save her and whatnot, but if it honest to God looks like the mass murdering drug lord is going to get away then losing one agent is small potatoes! In all fairness they do try to stop him, with a road block that is, but they’re quickly slaughtered by Cortez’s goons. Yeah, this was a stupid and childish plan from the start, in the immortal words of Donald Pleasance “A road block and an All-Points Bulletin wouldn’t stop a five year old!” But wait, the hits just keep on rolling with our good friends the FBI! Later on when the FBI finds out that Cortez is heading to Owens’ town they send a group of heavily armed agents to help… and they send them by car! Um, guys, why don’t you just send them there by helicopter? It’s faster, easier and safer, not to mention by sending them by car you run the risk of them running into Cor- (shows a clip of Cortez killing the FBI agents), oh now ya see? They’re all dead! Way to go you friggin’ idiots! What makes this all worse is that the moments with the FBI, especially with Whitaker’s character, are incredibly pointless and serve no other purpose then to remind the audience of where Cortez is going and to provide exposition on Owens! Next we have Cortez’s magical disappearing henchmen. You see when Cortez breaks out we see a group of henchmen helping him, one of them is a woman (trust me, that’s important) and a little later on at the road block his henchmen take out the police men. These henchmen? Never seen again after this point! I’m not kidding, at first I thought they ran ahead to meet the other henchmen (who are already at the town) but that wouldn’t make sense since Cortez’s car is the fastest and he’s in one hell of rush to get the Hell out of Dodge and he wouldn’t leave them behind either, also we never see the female henchman ever again. Not to mention, there was at least nine henchmen with Cortez at the road block so I ask… Where did they all go? Never explained! Next we have a scene which reveals that Owens might have lung cancer. In this scene we see Owens talking on a phone and there’s a very bloody tissue in front of him, a blood tissue that he quickly hides when he sees one of his deputies walking in. Granted, Owens’ hands were bloody but by the time he got back to his office the blood should have been too dry to wipe off and thus it’s obvious that the tissue symbolizes lung cancer… and just like the former henchmen his lung cancer just goes away. It’s never explained, never brought up again and in all was never even important! Lastly we have the character of Lewis Dinkum or to be more precise Dinkum’s weapons. Dinkum is a very disturbed comic relief character that has a huge warehouse filled to the brim with weapons. Swords, axes, guns of all shapes and sizes, cannons, MGs, bombs, tactical smart missiles, phase-plasma pulse rifles, RPGs, sonic electronic ball breakers! You name it, he’s got it! And… the film puts aaaaall of these weapons to waste! Seriously, they only use like three of his weapons, that’s it! You know what? Give Cortez an extra twenty or thirty goons and just go hog wild, movie! The final battle could have been bigger and better than it already was, but instead the film decides to hold back it’s punches instead of letting itself loose. So is there anything good I can say about the story? Well, yes. For starters the dialogue is very strong at many points in the film. There are also some great moments of humor, all of which fit right in with the film and work very well. The movie in a whole also moves at a pretty good pace and only drags in a few moments though these don’t last long at all.
The characters are all actually really generic and some are really bland. Ray Owens is your typical action hero; nothing wrong with there’s nothing about him that helps him to stand out amongst the sea of other action movie heroes. Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) is pointless and only serves to explain exposition and Cortez is a really lame and boring villain whom I really don’t find to be intimidating at all! The only character that really stand out is Lewis Dinkum who I found to be humorous and likeable, though sadly he’s severely underused and in the final battle he’s quickly taken out (another good character is taken out in the final battle leaving Owens and two really boring character left… I’m sensing that the film knew that Dinkum was going to be liked…). Overall the characters aren’t bad just generic.
Acting on the other hand is very good and in some cases the performances help their characters a lot.
Schwarzenegger gives a solid performance in his first leading role in ten years and proves that he’s still got it. Schwarzenegger easily hits all of his one liners perfectly, giving the same strong effect like in the old days as well as still coming off as a strong force to be reckoned with. Like Stallone, age isn’t slowing Schwarzenegger down!
Forest Whitaker, despite having a pointless character as well as his precious time wasted, gives a good performance as always.
I don’t know about the rest of you but I actually like Johnny Knoxville. To answer your first question, no I’ve never watched Jackass, the show or the movies, in fact when I think of Knoxville only two films come to mind: Men In Black II and Walking Tall, both of which I thought he was pretty good in. Likewise, Knoxville gives a pretty good and humorous performance in The Last Stand, and I feel he’s one of the few secondary characters who actually gives a s**t about his role. Sadly, just like his character Knoxville is underused.
Luis Guzman also gives a good and funny performance and he actually gives life and likeability to his otherwise weak and dull character.
As for the other actors and actresses… there’s really no point, they were all rather boring. Eduardo Noriega does try and gives a very decent performance as the villainous Cortez but his character is so dull and non-threatening that it’s all for not. The only person who really stood out was Harry Dean Stanton and that’s only because he got me to say “Hey, that old farmer guy who served absolutely no purpose in this movie was in The Green Mile!”.
Lastly we have the action scenes and for the most part they’re just OK. The early action scenes aren’t bad, but they’re very simplistic, it’s mostly just people shooting back and forth. Sure, every so often we get something pretty cool like Cortez’s goons shooting through the police road block or when Owens drives around killing bad guys with a shotgun, but for the most part they’re just OK. But the third act is when things get particularly exciting! It’s here that the action becomes impressive and downright entertaining, with a few creative kills (such as Dinkum blowing up half a guy’s body with a flare gun or Owens blowing a guy’s brains out mid-fall) some good explosions and Kim’s Sam Raimi esque style of filmmaking makes for a very entertaining final battle that feels like an old school action movie. But that’s not all, we get a pretty good fight between both Owens and Cortez which serves as a good finish to a good action packed third act. If there’s anything I can criticize here it’s the fact that I wish there were more bad guys so the action could go on longer. But as is the action in the third act is really gun and really entertaining and at the end of the day it makes The Last Stand worthwhile.
So in the end is The Last Stand a good way to restart Schwarzenegger’s career? This critic says yes. The plot is generic and severely flawed and some characters and actors are boring but strong performances from some of our actors, good and memorable dialogue, good pacing with the story and a strong third act really help make The Last Stand a fun and enjoyable action movie with an old school feel to it. Welcome back Arnold!
That was Rumor Control and tho- (Volts48 kicks HttC’s door open).
Volts48: Hail! Get out here quick! Something’s going down!
(HttC and Volts48 run outside where they meet KingJames and Burnouts3s3. HttC sees what all the fuss is, a giant dust cloud with thunderous sounds coming from it).
Burnout: KingJames spotted it first and got me, what do you make of it?
(HttC takes out some convenient binoculars and takes a look. He sees that within in the dust cloud are numerous armored cars with mounted guns, all of which are heading in the critics direction.)
HttC: Guys get back inside, I got this one.
(The others nod and head inside, HttC steps in the middle of the road as the dust cloud comes closer and closer. HttC cracks his neck and smiles…)
TO BE CONTINUED