The Last Stand

Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a former Los Angeles undercover narcotics officer who decided to leave the big city behind after an operation went bad and led to the deaths of several fellow officers.  Owens is now the sheriff of Summerton, a small town near the Mexican border where not much happens except the occasional drunk and disorderly arrest like that of Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Sheriff Owens deputy Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander).  Besides Torrance, Owens other deputies are Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzman) and Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford).  The peaceful nature of Summerton is about to be shattered as a ruthless drug cartel leader has busted out of federal custody and is racing towards the border in a super-powered Corvette.  The drug kingpin is Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) and he has an FBI agent as a hostage.  She is Agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) and her boss Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) is doing everything he can to stop Cortez.  Cortez has an army of violent gang members and the resources to thwart every effort the FBI makes to stop him.  He’s headed straight for Summerton and Sheriff Owens inexperienced and small staff.  It’s up to Owens, his deputies and a possibly crazy local gun nut named Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) to stop the cartel leader before he crosses the border.

 
“The Last Stand” is a mindless action picture.  It uses graphic violence and car chases in the place of a coherent story that adds anything to the human experience.  In other words, it’s your usual Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.  As it turns out, that’s a good thing as “The Last Stand” is filled with many of the classic components of his most popular films.
 
Schwarzenegger is always best when he’s not asked to do too much on screen.  Give him his few catch phrase lines and a couple of action scenes then surround him with a cast of quirky characters to do most of the heavy lifting.  That’s the formula for most of his films and the same is true for “The Last Stand.”  The quality of the supporting players is what makes the difference in Arnold’s movies and this time he has a pretty supportive group around him.
 
While Johnny Knoxville is played up in the trailers as being a big part of the film, his screen time is actually kind of minimal.  He’s seen early on then disappears for about half the movie.  He reappears as things begin to heat up and then is pretty much gone again.  Knoxville makes the most of his time on screen as the gun-loving Lewis Dinkum.  His wide-eyed enthusiasm over everything that goes “bang” is rather infectious and well-timed considering the brewing war over guns in Washington.  He provides a fair amount of comedy, both verbal and physical.  I actually wish Knoxville had gotten more screen time as his character is probably the most interesting of all the cast.
 
The rest of the players fill their roles well despite the rather predictable types they fall into.  Jaimie Alexander is the head-strong woman who really just wants to fall in love with the right guy.  That guy happens to be Rodrigo Santoro who is emotionally damaged from his time serving in Afghanistan.  His type is the misunderstood rebel who is really a good guy underneath.  Luis Guzman is the laid back, easy going deputy who would rather sit with his feet propped up on the desk than be out on patrol.  Of course, he comes through when the sheriff needs him.  Zach Gilford is the young, inexperienced deputy who wants to go to the big city and get in some real action.  His naiveté is a clue to his fate.
 
Despite the types the supporting cast is locked into, the group manages to forge an emotional bond with the audience and we care what happens to each of them.  It was surprising how much heart “The Last Stand” has even with all the language and violence.  It’s that heart that keeps things like the implausibility of the story from getting in the way of your enjoyment of the movie.  
 
What’s implausible, you ask?  Let’s start with the bad guy’s escape from the FBI.  His transport vehicle is snatched off the street by a giant magnet and lifted to the top of a building where he and his co-conspirators zipline across to another building where they complete the escape.  While it is visually exciting, it takes only a little thought to find all the holes in this plan that are simply ignored by the filmmakers.  The supercharged Corvette the bad guy is driving is equipped with night vision capabilities so he can drive with the lights off.  The FBI helicopter that’s chasing him seems to be missing that particular piece of technology which seems unlikely.  There is also the ability of the bad guy to have his men in the right place at the right time with the right plan and supplies to handle whatever the Feds have waiting to stop him.  That complaint can be made about nearly every movie that features a kind of super villain who seems unstoppable until they encounter the movie’s hero or heroes.  And of course, no one can shoot accurately except either the hero or the villain, depending on what the scene requires.  That’s a long time pet peeve of mine that has been going on as long as they’ve been making movies.  I suppose I just need to get used to it.
 
Despite all the logical and practical issues I have with the plot, what overrides them all is the camaraderie that evolves over the course of the film between the characters and the humor that is wrung from the situation.  Even Arnold is able to make me accept (but not believe) he cares about the other characters between the screenwriters efforts to give him a repeatable catch phrase at approximately 10 minute intervals.
 
“The Last Stand” is rated R for strong bloody violence and language.  There are countless numbers of people we see getting shot.  There are at least three graphic head shots that I recall.  There is also a couple of prolonged and brutal fist fights, one of which includes a couple of stabbings and numerous slashing.   Foul language is common throughout the film.
 
Arnold Schwarzenegger is 65 years old.  His face looks splotchy and spotted from years in the sun and the stress of being a bodybuilder, movie star, politician, husband, father and philanderer.  His neck has the waddle of skin that often develops with age.  His believability as a legitimate action star is coming to an end, despite the examples of the seemingly ageless Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.  Despite all that, it’s nice to see, with the right cast and a script that plays to his strengths, Schwarzenegger can still deliver an exciting and fun bit of mindless entertainment.  I believe he has kept the promise he made in “The Terminator”…he’s back.
 
“The Last Stand” gets five shot up and bloody guitars.
 
This week at the local movie house, there’s reimagined fairy tales, a star-studded comedy and an angry crook looking for revenge.  Which one I see is entirely up to you.
 
Hansel and Gretel:  Witch Hunters—After escaping the witch who wanted to eat them as children, the brother and sister become bounty hunters with a plan of eradicating every witch in the Dark Forest.
 
Movie 43—Almost every actor and actress you’ve ever heard of joins director Peter Farrelly for a crude and hilarious collection of off-color jokes and skits that are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.
 
Parker—Parker is a professional thief who lives by a personal code of ethics: Don’t steal from people who can’t afford it and don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it. But on his latest heist, his crew double crosses him and leaves him for dead.  Now it’s payback time.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Questions and comments can be sent to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter www.twitter.com/moviemanstan.