The smell of nostalgia is in the air again. Within mere weeks we will see the return of no less than three ’80s action superstars. While we have to wait the longest for A Good Day to Die Hard (Feb 14), there’s also Sylvester Stallone in Walter Hill’s Bullet to the Head. In the meantime, this weekend sees the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hollywood’s biggest action star, in director Kim Jee-woon’s Hollywood debut, The Last Stand. While the film is definitely a step up from John Woo’s Hard Target, Kim brings his Korean action film sensibilities while not being afraid to give American audiences what they expect too. The Last Stand is one of the better action films the ’80s never gave us.
Nine miles outside of Vegas, a State Trooper (Arron Shiver) clocks something flying by at 197 mph. He thinks it’s someone flying a jet plane around with its lights off. What really flew by is the (following film presented by) Chevy Corvette ’01. The car is on its way to Vegas where Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is being transported to death row by a SWAT team lead by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker). Cortez is helped to escape where he takes off in said Corvette with Agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) as hostage. Bannister knows Cortez is headed for the border but not before he has to pass through the sleepy town of Sommerton, Arizona.
Summerton County Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) has stayed behind to keep an eye on things while the rest of town head off to watch the local high school football team attempt a state championship. Bannister informs Ray that Cortez may be headed his way. Ray soon discovers the local farmer is found murdered by Cortez’ henchmen Burrell (Peter Stormare), the fishy truck driver he met in the diner earlier that day. Taking Cortez’ assault on his town personally, he’s loading up on firepower along with the help of Deputies Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) and Mike (Luis Guzman), and deputized prisoner Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) and town loon Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville).
While the film’s IMDB page has varied writing credits, the final credit on screen belongs to Andrew Knauer. This may be his first produced screenplay but Knauer knows his action movies. Having George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) as a writing supervisor certainly doesn’t hurt either. And director Kim obviously knows action (see The Good, the Bad, the Weird immediately). Things may not play out as a spoof a la Hot Fuzz or MacGruber, but it’s more than just an homage film. Kim may take some parts too seriously and the movie has too much padding with boring character development that adds nothing. What we came for is to see stuff go boom and cars go vroom, and that’s exactly what we get.
The Last Stand will thankfully not be Schwarzenegger’s last film and I couldn’t be happier than to welcome him back. Arnie’s most quoted line certainly applies here — he’s back and right where he belongs.
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