Escaping during an FBI prisoner transport, a dangerous cartel leader has made plans to make his way back to Mexico in a high-speed car via a small unassuming town. Getting wind of these plans prematurely, the town sheriff finds himself and his small band of deputies the last line of defence against the drugs baron and his team of mercenaries.
If The Last Stand has crept up on anyone’s radar at all it is because it marks the return of one Mr Arnold Schwarzenegger as a leading man. While a few wait in anticipation of their hulking hero to start shooting big guns and delivering rubbish one-liners, most viewed the trailer with cynicism and the not unfair assessment that the man has probably passed it while his genre of choice has moved on, leaving him behind; his personal style of action cinema being relegated to direct to DVD releases.
But if one were to look deeper they would see that there is something else of note occurring with this film, something that should at least partially legitimise it not only to serious film fans but also to world cinema snobs, because The Last Stand, as well as being Arnie’s return, is also the first western production of acclaimed South Korean director, Kim Jee-Woon.
We at Fanboy Confidential have long been fans of Korean cinema, its raw and unpredictable nature bringing exhilaration to the viewing audience, and while many would sight Oldboy director, Park Chan-Wook as the most notable director for recommendation, this reviewer holds that Kim Jee-Woon is the true cream of the crop. Not wanting to gush too much about the awesomely maverick writer/director here I shall simply ask those interested to click this link and read a full article that I wrote about his amazing work, those uninterested only need know that I consider him one of the greatest directors now and ever.
The fact that Kim Jee-Woon here acts as just director shows, the film as a whole missing his usual style of narrative complexity and unpredictability; but one can’t help but feel that his fingerprint is hidden there somewhere in the writing process, because it DOES have his singular balance of being ludicrously over the top yet somehow not being beyond the realms of possibility. For instance, yes, the relatively untrained deputies have to face off against trained mercs, but there are only about nine mercs rather than an army, the deputies are heavily armed and they’re on home ground. Arnie’s agedness isn’t too much of a concern either, he never really gets put in a fight that it seems like he can’t win.
There’s also enough directorial flair to keep devotees happy, even if it’s probably Kim Jee-Woon’s weakest film since his debut, The Quiet Family. Maybe for his next American feature a studio will have the balls to let him pen his own script.
But enough of the Kim Jee-Woon analysis, what of the rest of the film? What of Arnie? Well, despite the fact that he has some predictably terrible lines and is slightly stilted, he’s seen fit to put in a very subdued performance, widely avoiding the sheer embarrassment of his turn in The Expendables 2 and comfortably fitting into the wizened-veteran-takin’-care-of-business-because-he-has-to role. The rest of the cast are okay, but none too memorable.
The visuals are slick, the action and violence frantic, hard-hitting and over the top and by the third act you get the sense that you’ve been watching a western the entire time, if mix generously with an eighties action flick.
In short, it ticks all the boxes for the action fan with a tolerance for weak plots but a love for action set pieces that lean on the side of the extreme. Big-time Schwarzenegger fans shouldn’t be disappointed, Kim Jee Woon fans of a more highbrow nature could be but the average cinemagoer should be fairly entertained.
C grade – for originality
B+ grade – for direction
B grade – for action
B- grade – for acting
Overall grade – B