Written by / 1/18/2013 / No comments / , , ,

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER BACK FOR 'THE LAST STAND'

year: 2013 cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Stormare rating: ***1/2
Resembling a leathery komodo dragon weathered by a dry desert wind, the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in action...

Having departed show business during a slight downturn in his cinematic popularity – END OF DAYS was forsaken, BATMAN AND ROBIN a travesty, and TERMINATOR 3 let down die hard franchise fans – the body builder turned movie star turned California Governor plays if safe as the aged Sheriff of a small town bordering Mexico who, on his day off, and along with likable yet clumsy deputies, takes on an infamous drug cartel leader driving a souped-up corvette at demonic speed.

Half of the film sets up the antagonistic Cortez, a young cocky killer who escapes from Federal Agent Forrest Whitaker and heads to the open highway – but it’s sleepy-eyed Peter Stormare who provides a more accessible villain/henchman. This before the important stuff gets started…

With an exception of meeting each member of the good guy/bad guy teams, it’s all about exposition and commentary before the “big game,” providing Arnold’s Sheriff Ray Owens little to do in the meantime. We get to know his underlings and their shortcomings more than realizing his own skills and capabilities. But soon enough we learn the underrated Owens has a violent past, and settled into this current cushy job as a form of semi-retirement (could this be a nod to his political excursion?).

There’s one decent action scene bridging the inevitable showdown, pitting the underdog lawman against the first wave of dirt-stomping villains. Here’s where the movie plays its hand in a steady pace, juggling a high octane action with parody of ultra violent fare.

The direction is steely and calculating, and though there’s an overabundance of gunshots and explosions some good suspense comes out of it. That is, even when the pace slows down, the clock is still ticking.

A lot has changed in a decade thanks to (or no thanks to) computer enhancement. When someone gets shot you can see the blood and guts like cans of soup exploding. The car crashes are right in your face, often resembling a gritty video game in the process. While the humor is hit and miss, a lot of the one-liners attempting to levitate the unrelenting bloodshed are contrived and miss whatever target they're aimed at.

Arnold, as part of an ensemble cast, isn’t the entire canvas – many of the players, including Luis Guzman as a witty deputy and Johnny Knoxville as a loopy gun-ho hick – provide paint along the way: each practically equal in the HIGH NOON-like proceedings.  But Arnold's Ray Owens is the man in charge simply because he’s built to last, and this is his town.

So if THE LAST STAND doesn’t succeed in giving Schwarzenegger a worthy comeback, it’s definitely proof he still fits cozily into his old pair of shoes, which, for an already limited niche actor, is about all he can ask for.
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