THE LAST STAND (2013)
Chewing gum for the brain, a throwback to 80s action films offers car chase revved entertainment despite a veritable smorgasbord of bad acting
Though it seems like something from an alternative universe timeline, one of Korea’s finest modern directors has made his first overseas film by teaming up with bodybuilder-turned-film star-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.
However, a director with horror, comedy, crime and westerns in his locker, Kim Jee-woon has also always been able to command actions set-ups with considerable flair. As such, working with one of the biggest international action stars ever actually makes plenty of sense.
The main thrust of the film seems to be a dose of pure nostalgia, taking the cops vs drugs lords crime arch, adding in the 1980s-style action set-ups which made Schwarzenegger a household name, and finally paying homage to various Western classics in the process.
For those familiar with the works it borrows from, there is likely to be enough here to enjoy it as a high-octane action outing concerned with your visual entertainment.
There is a mountain to climb before you get there – how many wooden or hammy acting performances can you suffer in the process?
If you were wondering if Arnie’s acting has improved, the answer is a rather firm negative. Elsewhere are a series of exaggerated baddies and hapless locals, including Jackass prankster-come-attempted actor Johnny Knoxville. Only Forest Whitaker, as FBI Agent John Bannister, passes as a professional actor that should be in a film.
The story is a familiar one, and as a result a rather predictable one. Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) has left the LAPD after a bungled operation and is now Sheriff in the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction in Arizona.
When international drug lord Gabriel Cortez makes a daring escape, which it must be credited is a genuinely funny act where his transportation van is picked up by a giant magnet and swept onto a rooftop.
He then escapes in a souped-up Chevrolet Corvette and hurtles towards his gang in Sommerton Junction who are building a bridge over to Mexico. Owens, local officers and a gun-nut (Knoxville) team-up to tackle the gang and stop Cortez.
There are plenty of on-the-nose elements, such as drug lord Cortez also being a race car driver somehow, allowing the car chases to be as extreme as possible.
While it is an action throwback with thriller elements, the set-ups match western classics such as High Noon (1952) and Rio Bravo (1959).
The Last Stand is a film easy to feel snobbish about, a generalisation that applies to many critiques of action films.
However, there is never a feeling the film takes itself too seriously, with smatterings of B-Movie comedy through cheesy one-liners (“You fucked up my car... You fucked up my weekend”) and the cloddish local police deputies. Though nothing is funnier than the acting performances themselves.
The truth is that The Last Stand is a lot of fun despite the gloss of quality missing from Director Kim’s other films. The action is entertaining and you will find something to laugh at, whether intentionally pitched or not.