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Movie Review: The Last Stand - He's back, I guess

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Despite the trailers showing an out-of-shape Arnold Schwarzenegger hobbling around with a shotgun, The Last Stand had a lot of promise. The cast, ranging from Schwarzenegger himself, to Johnny Knoxville and Forest Whitaker, and the director, Kim Jee-Woon, whose filmography includes I Saw the Devil, combined to make this one seem like a sure bet.

The missing piece of the puzzle is the script, and it really is missing. The Last Stand has a relatively interesting premise in which a cartel leader makes a prison break and flees for the border. He passes through a small town where sheriff Arnold must stop him. Unfortunately it fills the rest of the story in with stereotypical characters, cliched motives, and glacial pacing. Schwarzenegger tries his best (as always, but you know what that means), meanwhile Whitaker phones in his performance as the FBI agent in pursuit. The entire FBI side of the plot could have been drastically truncated without hurting the film in the least.

The Last Stand

It’s in the few scenes where Arnold is paired with Knoxville and Luis Guzmán that the film picks up some steam. Sometimes you might fault a movie for being too silly, but The Last Stand wasn’t silly enough. The unlikely pairing of Arnold and Knoxville (adorned in an antique helmet and bathrobe), unloading a belt-fed gatling gun from the safety of a bright yellow school bus is a sight to behold. Had The Last Stand taken a page or two from Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I think we’d be talking about a much more enjoyable movie.

The added downside to all this is that it only seems to exacerbate Schwarzenegger’s half-cocked return. If you ask me, he “returned” just fine in his performance in The Expendables 2. Here he’s burdened with lines he probably shouldn’t be delivering and stunts he isn’t capable of nailing anymore. I want him to be back, I really do, but much like Liam Neeson’s performance in Taken 2, they’ll have to do a bit better in the editing room to really make these older stars shine against the more agile and younger action stars.

The Last Stand

Beyond Arnold’s return to film, The Last Stand is significant for opening the floodgates on a movement that could go either way: Kim Jee-Woon’s debut in Hollywood is just one example of a popular South Korean director tackling an English language film. Park Chan-Wook’s upcoming Stoker and Joon-Ho Bong’s Snowpiercer are two further examples of an experiment that, based on The Last Stand, may not supply the best results. Here’s hoping the blame is more on The Last Stand’s misguided script and not something that’s being lost in translation.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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