A cunning and highly sought after criminal (played by Eduardo Noriega, a great name for a villain, let alone an actor) is on the loose. A desperate federal officer (Forest Whitaker) is unable to catch him in time, especially when a super-fast Corvette, able to hit 197 miles in a second, is the getaway car. What the fugitive doesn’t expect is that, in order to meet his rendezvous point with his henchmen, he must cross through a small, dusty town, run by a sheriff who used to be a Los Angeles police officer. Once we see the sheriff in question is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, we see how the villain is outnumbered.
This is the first starring role Schwarzenegger has had in the 10 years since he starred in the underrated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, became the Governor of California, dealt with a personal scandal and published a mostly-tell all book. I’ve been a lifelong fan of his and, considering his reign as Mr. Universe, the biggest movie star in the world and the most unlikely of U.S. politicians, a middle aged comeback as an action movie star doesn’t come as a surprise.
Schwarzenegger’s longtime friend and collaborator Sylvester Stallone once starred in a similarly modern day western called Copland, where the star transformed himself physically and played a soft spoken, painfully vulnerable and quietly heroic lawman who must take action to defend his town. Stallone was brilliant in that film, which showcased his finest performance. What Schwarzenegger does in The Last Stand isn’t in the same league and neither is the movie.
During Schwarzenegger’s introductory scenes, he seems miscast but grows nicely into the role and brings a lot of heart and genuine world weariness to a part that was likely written for someone like Sam Elliot. The former Governator has never been given much credit for his acting ability but, in his best films, particularly the ones directed by James Cameron, he’s actually first rate.
Likewise, whether brandishing heavy firepower or having to really act during a sad scene where a fellow officer is mortally wounded, Schwarzenegger is as good here as you’d hope he’d be. Unfortunately, the movie itself is too generic and long-winded, taking too long time to get to the standoff. One could be nice and say the screenplay takes its time to establish character development but everything here is so clichéd, you wish the film would move past the filler and get to the main course.
Whitaker in particular is stuck in exposition-heavy scenes of spouting orders while the crook breaks loose, scenes that play like every cop TV show currently airing. The band of misfit heroes Schwarzenegger assembles are likable enough, though Jackass star and professional knucklehead Johnny Knoxville has no business being in a Schwarzenegger film . Even Noriega and Peter Stormare, an actor who specializes in playing eccentric heavies, don’t play characters fresh or bad enough to be the equal of the Terminator.
The acclaimed South Korean director Jee-woon Kim (whose A Tale of Two Sisters is, without a doubt, the scariest movie I’ve seen) does a fine job with his debut English language film. A car chase through a cornfield is exceptional and even artful in its staging.
Action fans will likely walk away happy but this is merely okay, a competent vehicle for a movie star who has not only done better but starred in some of the greatest action films ever produced. His next film, The Tomb, pairs him with Stallone and is said to be a prison movie like Tango and Cash. For that one, I’ll definitely be back.
The Last Stand
Rated R / 107 Min.