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Film Review | ‘The Last Stand’ contains few thrills

Action sequences try to compensate for poor script

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 08:01

If you saw the trailer for “The Last Stand” in the theater alongside movies like “Django Unchained” or “Zero Dark Thirty,” you wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that the film would be a miss. Based off of a preview filled with random explosions, Johnny Knoxville and groan−inducing Arnold Schwarzenegger one−liners, it appeared that “The Last Stand” would be the perfect embodiment of movies released in January, historically known as a dumping ground for studios to unload some questionable product. Surprisingly enough, all of the riff raff surrounding the film is mired in misconception. “The Last Stand” is not as terrible as the previews would lead you to believe. If you check your expectations at the door and doesn’t take the movie too seriously, then “The Last Stand” is a decently entertaining, albeit mindless, action flick.

The movie has been heavily promoted as the comeback film for Schwarzenegger, who left the movie industry to become governor of California in 2003 and has not had a starring role since “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003). He stars as Ray Owens, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer who is now the sheriff of Sommerton Junction, Ariz. on the U.S.−Mexico border. Ray leads a small police force, including Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzm) and Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander), in protecting the town. The majority of the residents leave town for the weekend to support their local football team, leaving the town conveniently empty for the duration of the movie.

The beginning of the film meanders through the comings and goings of the sleepy town, while setting up a parallel plot line of drug lord Gabriel Cortez’s (Eduardo Noriega) escape from an FBI convoy. Cortez flees towards the U.S.−Mexico border in a custom Corvette that routinely pushes 200 mph, with law enforcement in hot pursuit, led by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker). The drug kingpin and his associates continue to outmaneuver and eliminate SWAT teams and barricades until the only obstacle between Cortez and freedom is Ray, backed by his team of deputies and local weapons enthusiast Lewis Dinkum (Knoxville).

Sound ridiculous yet? That’s because it is. The plot of “The Last Stand” is merely a weak structure designed to move us from one action piece to the next. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing for a movie that hearkens back to Schwarzenegger’s heyday of 80’s and 90’s action blockbusters, where the action was often contained within fairly ridiculous plotlines that didn’t take themselves too seriously. The issue with “The Last Stand” is that for a movie whose focus should be on thrill and spectacle, it often spends far too much time on plot and uninteresting characters.

Due to a weak script and poor character development, the actors are never really able to move beyond the one−note roles that have been written for them.

Kim Jee−Woon, a successful Korean director who marks his first American production with “The Last Stand,” makes the action sequences in this film work to his advantage. A series of imaginative car chases are sprinkled throughout the movie, adding a shot of adrenaline to the otherwise dull proceedings in the build−up to the film’s third act. The climax of the movie works well as a modern take on a classic Western shoot−out, with the bare town quickly becoming a playground for the action to unfold in the face−off between Ray and Cortez’s henchmen. One drawback to the action is the often gratuitous violence that comes attached, with people and body parts going down in explosions of blood for no real reason other than to make use of the film’s R−rating.

While the film is certainly not going to win any accolades, clever action sequences save the movie from its poor script and acting. For those looking for a few hours of escapist entertainment that has no real substance, “The Last Stand” will be an adequate if not particularly memorable choice.

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