The Last Stand Review

The Plot:

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a former LA cop enjoying semi-retirement as the Sherriff in an uneventful border town. But when the ruthless leader of a drug cartel escapes federal custody on the run for Mexico, the only thing standing in the way of his army of henchmen is Arnie and a small band of inexperienced deputies.

The Good:

After abandoning Hollywood superstardom to rule California as the Governator, the big screen return of Arnold Schwarzenegger is a long awaited delight for action fans. Although at 65 he is understandably no longer the god like specimen of physical perfection they will fondly remember. However Arnie has a charismatic aura and iconic status that somehow still transcends a diminishing physique and any conventional assessments of acting prowess.

The Expendables 2 proved that Arnie can still apply his distinctive voice to a familiar one liner with joyous results. The Last Stand takes advantage of that, particularly during its more explosive later stages. However, it may surprise people to see Schwarzenegger attempt to deliver a more vulnerable and subtle performance for much of the film. Abandoning efforts to maintain his familiar aura of invincible invulnerability makes Schwarzenegger’s performance a little more plausible and gives him fresh territory to explore as an aging underdog.

Korean Director Jee-Woon Kim of ‘The Good The Bad and The Weird’ acclaim brings flashes of his stylish action madness to The Last Stand. Trash talking old ladies and dispatching bad guys with a flare gun are among the film’s more absurd and gleefully silly delights. Once the real fighting starts the film massively changes gear, shifting into full throttle fun.

The Bad:

The Last Stand openly acknowledges that Arnie is far from the herculean hero of his youth, but it is still difficult to avoid noticing just how much impact the pressures of life and politics have had on him.

It is also impossible to avoid comparing the film overall to the type of films Schwarzenegger was making in his prime. Spectacular action blockbusters like Total Recall or Terminator 2 pushed the boundaries of special effects and helped define the action movie genre. Schwarzenegger films were unique, memorable and unexpected. Sadly while The Last Stand is not without its own merits, it simply isn’t any of those things. Beyond Schwarzenegger’s enduring charisma and the tantalising allure of his big screen return there’s nothing truly special on show.

The film’s stifling attempts to be genuinely dramatic for much of its opening hour rob it of the kind of consistent joy that more self-aware humour could have brought. Although some will argue that Schwarzenegger’s efforts to deliver a real performance in the face of an obvious temptation to simply deliver a fan pleasing caricature of himself should be commended.

The film’s supporting cast is fairly full of familiar faces like Forrest Whitaker, Jamie Alexander, Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville. Sadly predictable performances and a limp script largely reduce the film’s background characters to either plot devices or by the number comedic relief. Bad Guys Eduardo Noriega and Peter Stormare are also a little lackluster, lacking genuine menace or humour.

The Ugly Truth:

While not quite the unequivocally triumphant return some fans may have dreamed of, The Last Stand does begin Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big screen rehabilitation with flashes of greatness, particularly once the bullets and one liners start flying. If you enter the cinema with more modest expectations you’ll leave with a bigger smile on your face. Either way, The Sheriff is back in town.

Red Carpet Interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville and Jamie Alexander at the London Premiere below:

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