High Noon Meets Raw Deal
With The Last Stand, director Jee-woon Kim contrives an action thriller which does everything wrong for the entire length of its running time. Arnold Schwarzenegger has played the "small town sheriff" before in Raw Deal. This time he faces Peter Stormare and an array of bad guys in a High Noon style showdown. However, comparing this action film to the 1952 offering feels unfair to the latter because The Last Stand provides very little which we haven't seen before.
Fans of the mega star will wonder what went wrong here. With a resurgence in screen popularity as a result of The Expendables movies, Schwarzenegger clearly relishes the physical action required by audiences. And yet, the film appears utterly shapeless in terms of dramatic execution and content. The script, penned by Andrew Knauer, thrives on cliches. For example, pitting a veteran law enforcement officer against high-octane terrorists feels as old as cinema itself. Also, having the cop rely on a firearms enthusiast, played by Johnny Knoxville, should add comedy to a serious situation like this. Instead the opposite occurs. Why? Arnold seems surrounded by players miscast in roles requiring state-the-obvious dialogue.
In a perfect world, The Last Stand would wrap the plot around unforgettable action scenarios. What we get instead are extended conversations with scant electricity. Escaped terrorist Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) makes his way to the nearly empty town of Sommerton, Arizona. He's unaware that sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) has been forewarned of his plans.
Describing the set-pieces as workmanlike feels like an overstatement. Shootouts blend into each other with none of the spark or magic which defines a few (but not all) of Schwarzenegger's previous forays. For the record, I hold Predator and Eraser in high regard as quintessential blockbuster material because they get the job done efficiently.
The Last Stand lays in a quagmire of self-deception. If the director believes a moderate amount of explosives can compensate for a lack of suspense, then he should continue making pictures like this. The only thing missing may be active audience participation.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" by MPAA.)