When last we saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in a starring role, it was in 2003, with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, just before he improbably became the governor of California. Though that film was a box office success, it was already clear that Schwarzenegger’s career had long since peaked and that the return to his most-popular franchise was an attempt at staying relevant.
Ten years later, the Governator is slowly but surely trying to work his way into the good graces of the moviegoing public. He knows that he brings nothing new to the table, so with his appearances in The Expendables and, now, The Last Stand, he’s giving us what we want — lots of mayhem with little more to think about than what’s going to blow up next.
Here, Schwarzenegger plays Sheriff Ray Owens in a small Arizona border town called Sommerton Junction. He and his mismatched band of deputies find out that a drug lord has escaped from FBI custody in Las Vegas and is hightailing it toward them in a souped-up Corvette that can go 200 mph.
The plot careens wildly but never goes completely off the tracks. Most surprising, the acting carries the movie most of the way through.
In typical Hollywood fashion, they end up on their own after the FBI bungles multiple opportunities to a) stop the drug lord before he reaches them or b) dispatch help that would be more adequate than their undertrained force. Thank goodness they don’t, though, as that would prevent the local gun nut (Johnny Knoxville) from being able to offer his services.
As directed by Korean filmmaker Jee-Woon Kim, The Last Stand is more entertaining than it has any right to be. That’s not to say it’s good, necessarily, just that it actually holds your attention instead of making you want to walk out of the theater.
The action scenes cumulatively hold up well, even if they’re accompanied by fake blood straight out of a Syfy movie. Meanwhile, the plot careens wildly but never goes completely off the tracks.
Most surprising of all, the acting carries the movie most of the way through. Schwarzenegger, of course, has never had much skill, but he still gets to play off his reputation by delivering cheesy punctuation lines.
Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare and Luis Guzman lend the project a modicum of credibility. Knoxville transfers his Jackass persona to the role, and he makes a throwaway part — one that in no way deserves equal billing to Schwarzenegger on the poster — into one that’s pretty funny.
The Last Stand is one of those movies that outshines its ultra-low expectations, which makes it a kind of strange success. Schwarzenegger still has a long, long way to go before he can be considered a legitimate movie star again, but you can’t count him out quite yet.