It’s Sherriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger, who definitely looks like an ‘Owens’ to me) who is the more pensive personality. After several years as an LA narcotics cop (living through what I assume was some version of a ’90s Schwarzenegger movie), Ray has semi-retired to the sleepy town of Sommerton, Arizona. Unfortunately his plans are completely upended when the most incompetent band of FBI agents the world has ever seen let drug-lord/racecar driver Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escape. His goal: to get to Mexico as quickly as possible, which means going right through Sommerton.
It’s been quite a while since Schwarzenegger has tried his hand at this sort of thing, and he and the filmmakers know it. With his weather-beaten face he looks more tired than angry after nearly a decade in politics. Whether he realizes it or not, Schwarzenegger himself seems to be making his own last stand as a still-relevant action star. It’s a look and feel which director Kim Jee-Woon (in his first Hollywood film) plays to the hilt, trying his best to build Ray as a reluctant warrior.
But it doesn’t really work.
Part of that is the script by Andrew Knauer which is all over the place. You know any story that starts with a state trooper eating a donut is going to be ‘playing with well-worn genre concepts’ which is a nice way of saying cliché-ridden mess. And a lot of “The Last Stand” is like that, particularly the dialogue, which is flat at best and filled with oddly-timed ‘comic relief’ like a diner full of customers who refuse to leave before a firefight starts because they just ordered their omelets.
It’s a feeling which culminates in Johnny Knoxville’s poor impulse control gun nut Lewis, who fortunately does not have enough screen time to be as fully annoying as he could be. But he certainly tries his level best.
Lewis points out another speed bump in the pace as “Last Stand” is filled with side characters drawing attention away from Ray, who they would like to develop more, without offering anything of substance to make us care about them. Will Deputy Torrance (“Thor’s” Jaimie Alexander) ever forgive Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) for having PTSD from serving in Iraq. Will Deputy Bailey (Zach Gilford) make it to LA like he dreams? Who knows? Who cares? They’re not really characters or subplots, they are distractions to get us through the movie’s run time and the filmmakers aren’t really sure how to do that.
Which is the real disappointment. Jee-Woon is a fantastically talented director; “I Saw The Devil” managed the difficult juggling act of combing drama, action and horror into a satisfying whole without losing out on character or story. One would hope even a degree of that could be translated to “The Last Stand,” but that’s a hope in vain.
And it must be said, Schwarzenegger himself is badly miscast. Yeah, he may be an aging acting star, but he doesn’t really act one. He’s the same stoic statue he’s always been, so exhibiting sadness at the loss of a deputy, or frustration at having to use glasses now doesn’t come off with any punch at all.
Nor does he get much in the way of villains to test himself against. Cortez spends most of his time behind the wheel of a car and the promised conflagration we’ve been promised once he finally reaches the town is lackluster at best.
As action movies go, it’s okay. There are some good ideas underneath and an attempt develop them, but only an attempt. And though time has moved on, Schwarzenegger himself hasn’t. As a hero’s triumphal return goes, it’s more of a whimper.