I know a few times on here I’ve complained about Hollywood using nostalgia as an excuse for lack of more original storytelling, and sometimes….well… I take the bait. Generally with certain movies I know what I’m walking into, which is when I decided to see Schwarzenegger’s newest film, The Last Stand. I grew up like a lot of kids in the 80’s loving The Big Guy in his movies, whether they were astoundingly great (Terminator 1 & 2, Predator), to the wild and weird (Total Recall) to the down right silly (Commando). The Last Stand probably falls into the category of Commando, which is the staple stock formula Schwarzenegger film, but a little more toned down. The Last Stand actually plays to Arnie’s age, which is a plus, and the movie relies on a lot of the standard action movie cliches. There’s pretty much no grey area, the characters are either good or bad. You have your standard supporting characters…the deputy who wants to see more action, the funny guy, the crazy gun guy, the foreign villain, etc. etc. In a nut shell, it’s pretty much everything you’d expect from an Arnold movie.
So what did I think in general? I had a great time! Sometimes I can deal with the familiar if its done right. The director Jee-Woon Kim managed to capture the spirit of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film without it divulging into a parody of itself. It’s like going to watch an Arnold movie in the 80’s, with an older, slightly rustier Arnold. But like I said, the film uses that to its advantage, and despite how old he’s getting, Arnold’s still got what it takes when the job needs to get done.
The film takes its time before getting to the action, and there’s about an hour of set up before getting to the big shootout in town, which the film seems to take a lot of cues from High Noon. Arnold is sheriff of a sleepy town right at the border of Mexico where nothing ever happens, but of course as it so happens, the villain that the FBI is after is going to be headed straight through the town to cross the border, with Arnie and his hapless band of inexperienced deputies standing in the way. I have to say, as cliche as they were, one of the things the movie does get right is the deputy characters. They are pretty scared and vulnerable. The most action these guys have seen putting tickets on cars in the fire zone. The villain has practically an army of minions sent to clear the path for his arrival, all experienced gunmen, making it seem like a hopeless battle if not for the deputies having the number one action ass-kicker sheriff for a mentor. However, this story point let to my one failing of the movie, at least towards the very end of the film. I found myself sympathizing the most with the young deputies in the film, and really I found myself worried for their safety, which made the town shootout at the end much more engaging and exciting. I liked the characters enough that I didn’t want to see them killed, and when one of them does bite the bullet, I felt bad for him and his friends. He was a genuinely likeable character. But the thing I wished would have happened was that instead of Arnold taking out the villain one on one at the end, I felt it really should have been the deputies who save the day, and it could have been the biggest surprise of the film. I get why it was done this way, everyone wants to see Arnold take out the bad guy. But I also feel that Arnold‘s position as a mentor to these younger officers could have had more an effect, to show Arnold passing the torch to the younger generation. I don’t think Arnie should have been killed, but maybe incapacitated and one of the others would have had to take a stand to finish the job. The only other thing I would say bugged me was that the scenes following the FBI trailing the villain were pretty boring, and nowhere as interesting as the characters in Arnold‘s town. I felt we should have spent much more time in the town than with the chase, because Forrest Whitaker‘s FBI agent character really doesn’t have much connection the actual shoot out at the end, apart from arriving right after the villain has been taken down.
As disappointed as I was with those few aspects of the movie, I still had a great time. The movie is a ham sandwich for sure, and everyone chews up the scenery, which is great. There’s also a great cameo by Harry Dean Stanton, who displays a little spunk and badassary of his own. A few of the senior citizens of the town take action in the final battle, which leads to some of the funniest and cheer worthy moments in the movie. And really, if you know what you’re getting into, then you know that to view this movie, you really do just kind of have to turn off your brain and go with it. I don’t like saying that generally about movies, but it’s kind of an expectation for most Arnold movies. I’m sure also if you‘re a Republican or an NRA supporter, with all the frustrations I’m sure most of you feel with what’s going on in the media, here’s a good movie for you to watch to vent your frustrations. It’s fun, it’s silly, it’s over the top. Life of course is a lot more complicated than what we see on the screen, but on occasion I think it helps people to have a straight good vs. evil flick. Because sometimes we do need to vent. And regardless of what people may think, I think a movie like this really couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.