Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review: The Last Stand (2013)

The Last Stand
The Last Stand (2013)
Dir: Kim Jee-woon
Cert 15 / Running time 107 mins

I remember when I was a lot younger - there was only one VHS player in my parent's house, it was in the living room. I'd discovered The Terminator whenever it appeared on TV late one night and as a result I made sure I kept my eyes peeled to tape it off the TV the next time it was on. When I finally possessed this Bush E-180 recording, it was never off TV. I was on summer holidays, so for two months I had my own screening room and it showed The Terminator, all day - every day (at least until my parents wanted to watch something). It was fair to say I was captivated. It had cyborgs, it had laser guns, machine guns, and boobies - everything a growing boy needs basically. But it also had a massive bloke in it who both terrified and intrigued me - Arnold Schwarzengger. So began my warm appreciation for the man and his movies.

Fast forward a lifetime and today I took my place in the cinema (a proper one) to see his latest movie, The Last Stand. Like Arnie - I've been around the block. I know that sometimes the biggest anticipation can lead to the biggest disappointment (I'm looking at you, Matrix Revolutions) so I sat down with the full knowledge that this in all likelihood wouldn't be a perfect movie by any means.

With no action set-piece to kick things off, we're left a while to see what kind of energy Kim Jee-woon will bring to the movie. When the scene is set for Arnie's small-town Sheriff, Ray Owens (its funny how often Arnie - a guy with a think Austrian accent - still plays characters with “regular Joe” names) its a familiar scene. Sleepy town, not much happens. Except newly escaped drug lord Martinez (Eduardo Noriega) will soon be rolling Arnie's way in his supercar. To pave Martinez's way to freedom in Mexico is a crew of badasses straight from The A-Team, led by Peter Stormare.

Unfortunately it doesn't feel like the movie really takes off until Stormare's gang wheel into Sommerton main street. By then Arnie has assembled a gang of deputies, including Johnny Knoxville, who plays pretty much the same character he did in Walking Tall. The rest consist of the always awesome Luis Guzman, an underused Rodrigo Santoro and Jaimie Alexander.

Come back, its only a flare gun!
By then we have a villain in Martinez that lacks the compelling "X" factor of really good movie villains, some clunky delivery from Arnie and a lead-up to a showdown that doesn't do a lot to crank up the tension. But let's be honest - you or I won't be sat watching this movie because its got the storytelling of a Tarantino, or the concept of a Nolan, or the style of a Snyder - we're watching it because its the first real Schwarzenegger film in ten years. It doesn't matter that Arnie's acting chops are a little rusty, or that we know how its going to play out, or that the villain won't be in the Hall of Fame. Its a platform to see him pick up a big gun and blow the sweets out of bad guys. And that he does. Despite it wisely being more of an ensemble piece than a one-man army, Arnie gets plenty of chances to show us he still has a fondness for Phased Plasma Rifles in the 40 Watt Range. Its towards the last third of the film we get to see what Kim Jee-woon brings - apart from exploding henchmen. There's glimpses of flair and humour amongst exploding-head violence, there's Arnie still delivering his quotable one-liners while also nodding to the fact that its been a while since he was asked for ID in the offies.

From this range, Im a surgeon with this thing
What it boils down to is a man on man, toe to toe beatdown between Arnie and Martinez. At this point I suspected that my willingness to suspend disbelief might get severely tested - but I shouldn't have worried. The showdown has heart and a certain believability (more or less). By the time the credits roll - did I feel disappointed? No. Its not Arnie's Rocky Balboa - its not a comeback that will prove everybody wrong. Its not even in his top ten BUT it is a comeback and we're now into a new era of Schwarzengger. Maybe thats the most important thing.

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