The Last Stand (2013)

Untitled-1Don’t we all just hate the FBI? What jerks. They barge in and take every case right out from under the local police departments and always seem to mess things up. They can never solve cases, and they always come off as snobby tight-assed pigs. Well, at least this is what Hollywood makes of them. In The Last Stand, the FBI crosses over from annoying pests to completely useless. And boy do we love it.

We meet Ray Owens (Arnie Schwarzenegger), a hunky sheriff — with an accent that’s never explained — who settles down in the rural town of Sommerton, Arizona, after spending his entire career in the LAPD. He says he’s seen enough bloodshed and death, and it’s time for him to sit back and deal with the occasional cat in the tree. That’s all fine and dandy, but when the local milk farmer turns up dead, he is once again called by duty, not by law, to kill some bad guys.

The plot is divided into two. At first, each half is seemingly unrelated. One tells Ray’s story, and how he has to deal with disgruntled deputies, and the other follows everyone’s heroes, the FBI, as they try to hunt down a fugitive who’s making for the Mexican border in a super quick Corvette. What really struck me was how interesting both these stories were. I’m going to be honest and say that I was sucked in, because both stories give us something new.

Ray’s story gives us the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger living as a semi-retired cop. Quite the opposite of roles we are most commonly used to seeing him in. Even after all these decades of living as an American, his Austrian accent has not diluted one bit. And it might just be me, but I got the sense that his acting here is a bit rusty. Maybe it’s the accent. Or maybe it’s both. Who knows? Who cares? It was a joy seeing him on screen again, and not as part of some stupid sex scandal.

The Corvette story is equally captivating. Mexican drug lord, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), organizes a massive rescue operation from the confines of an armoured van as he’s being transported to somewhere or other to be executed. The van is hoisted up onto a roof by a large magnet on a crane, and from there, he and his men flee the scene. He gets out of his orange jumper, dons a suave suit — because all villains have to look suave — and jumps into the driver’s seat of his beloved Corvette, taking an FBI agent hostage.

This is all fantastic stuff. Two stories, both interesting, both not letting up. One’s slow and steady, the other’s fast and furious. Even when they meet, roughly halfway during the movie, their union is not odious. See, Gabriel has a second team — led by Peter Stormare — assigned to construct a mobile bridge just south of Sommerton, where the gap between America and Mexico over the canyon is at its narrowest. Gabriel intends to zoom on through the town, over the bridge, and on to safety. Naturally, once Ray’s team of misfit deputies discovers this construction site, Ray takes matters into his own hands. It all makes perfect sense to me. Simple, easy, but effective.

Where The Last Stand fails, perhaps, is in its characters. We are thrown the stock: sexy lady deputy, overweight deputy, rookie deputy, criminal deputy, whacky I-Want-To-Be-A-Hero deputy, bearded villain (times two), hot chicks, clueless FBI agents. We’ve seen all of them before, and none of them give us anything new to hold on to. Forest Whitaker in particular (he plays the lead FBI guy) is pretty disappointing. Barely showing us a smile, his character is wrought with anger, frustration, and semi-loud explosions of curse words. Hardly becoming of any law enforcer.

The movie’s directed by Kim Ji-Woon, whom I’ve admired ever since I saw his Korean movie, The Good, The Bad, And The Weird. He brings his style here to Hollywood, and it’s a decent enough outing. He’s aware that Arnie is the one who has to shine, and his handling of the excessive violence is not necessarily tasteful, but it’s impressive. If you’re looking for Arnie’s return to being an action movie star, The Last Stand’s for you.

Best Moment | The moment when Arnie comes storming in to give his deputies backup against Peter Stormare’s men at the construction site. He drives his SUV right into the thick of the action and blows a couple of henchmen out with his shotgun. Very Terminator. Very Arnie.

Worst Moment | I hate all cheesy movie kisses.

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