THE LAST STAND

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He’s back. The larger than life Austrian that made me proud to be a californian has returned to the big screen in  The Last Stand.  Technically, his cameos in The  Expendables 1 and 2 marked his first acting gigs since his cameos in 2004s Around the World in 80 Days and 2003’s The Rundown. The last time we got to see some full time Arnie action was in Terminator 3. That was ten years ago. So does the king of action still got what it takes?

I’m sure that’s the question on many a mind since Arnie finished up his public office stint and prepared his return to film at age 65. Now, that is by no means too old to make movies. After all, Clint Eastwood just came at with the quite excellent Trouble With the Curve at age 82.  But let’s be honest. Schwarzenegger is no Eastwood.  He can do action roles, with the occasional lame comedy, and even that’s pushing it. The action genre and  action fans have changed a lot since Arnie’s glory days in Commando and Predator. Is the Governator’s brand of entertainment relevant to todays’ audiences?

Enter: The Last Stand.  Ray Owens was an L.A. cop who had enough of  the inner city violence and left to be a sheriff in a small town near the mexican border. Not much happens in Sommerton, and Ray likes it that way. His vastly inexperienced deputies spend their days shooting slabs of beef with the local nutjob (who runs a weapons museum) and locking up the local drunk (who happens to be and ex-military man evidenced by his ‘semper fi’ tattoo.) A nice quaint life.

Meanwhile, back in the city, there’s this big time mexican drug cartel dude who escapes from custody, and races to Mexico as fast as he can in his really fast car. I mean, this car is fast. Plus, we learn, this drug cartel dude is a born speedster; he’s been driving fast cars since he could walk. Think Vin Diesel only hispanic. Wait, is Vin Diesel hispanic? Never mind.

The FBI try everything they can to stop the sadistic Gabriel Cortez, but Cortez has planned for everything, with a small army of thugs to do his bidding. And with Sommerton being the last town before the border, it becomes the responsibility of the Sheriff and his deputies to form the last line of defense. In other words… It’s THE LAST STAND.

The film is a by-the-numbers actioner. Most of the dialoge is uninspired, yet totally serviceable.  The supporting cast does a fine job in their roles; and I even caught myself caring about their safety when the bullets begin spraying in the final showdown. Even Johnny Knoxville as the comic relief isn’t as nearly as annoying as I thought he would be.

As for the sheriff, Arnie did indeed look weathered. But he picked a role that allowed him to be believable. Is it believable to see Schwarzenegger as a small town sheriff in Texas? Not really.  But for most the film his character doesn’t engage in any activities that would be unrealistic for a 65 year old with really leathery skin. Think Rambo, with old Stallone. Sly didn’t do much running or jumping or fist fights, he just had a huge gun.

But  “realism”  is not why you go see a Arnie flic. And this one definitely feels larger than life, especially in the second half and finale. The last 30 minutes are exhilaratingly fun. I could imagine later in life just skipping to the showdown and it be worth it. Yet it’s the first half of the film that establishes the playful tone and characters, setting the audience up to enjoy the blood bath even more.

And of course Arnold’s onscreen charm and keen ability to deliver those priceless one-liners are still intact. Example:

Gabriel Cortez:  You fucked up my car.

Sheriff Ray Owens:  You fucked up my day off.

Not quite as great as this  moment , but still great.

I think The Last Stand fits nicely into Arnolds’ filmography. It doesn’t feel like a rehashed version of any of his classics. In some aspects, you could say it’s treading a new path. The studios are flinging piles of cash at him to make sequels and remakes of his old stuff, but I’d prefer to see him blaze forward in fresh projects like this one. Who knows, maybe he has a few more future classics left in him. But as for now, this was a triumphant way to come back.

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