I try not to let the private lives of movie stars get in the way of my enjoyment of their films. I can never understand why American audiences have a problem watching a Tom Cruise movie just because he jumped on a couch. Similarly, when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger, what I think of his performance as California governor or of his affair with his housekeeper does not get into my head when I sit down to watch one of his films.
So, it was with much anticipation and curiosity that I decided to watch the former Guv’s comeback vehicle – The Last Stand – released earlier this year. The film had reasonably good reviews (for a film in the action genre) with a metacritic score of 54, but completely collapsed at the box office, with a total take of USD 12 million in the US and another USD 25 million elsewhere in the world. The film is directed by Jee-Won Kim, who made the over-the-top ‘kimchi western The Good, the Bad, the Weird in 2008 and the creepy horror/ thriller A Tale of Two Sisters in 2003.
The Last Stand has great stunts and camera work, but of course audiences take all this for granted these days, fed as they are on a diet of F & the F, Bourne and Die Hard films. Successful action films are the ones that have characters with some back story, who are realistic and who have inter-relationships that we care about. First time writer Andrew Knauer seems to have got some of that right. In fact, this spec script actually made the famed Black List in 2009.
Needless to say, it’s always the bad guys who are interesting and colourful; we have escaped drug honcho Gabriel Cortez (played by Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega) and his chief henchman Burrell (Swedish actor Peter Stormare who always plays slightly unhinged characters like the one who famously fed someone into a wood chipper in the Coen Brothers’ Fargo). The Last Stand also has some entertaining characters on the good side. Let’s start with Arnold himself, who plays the small town sheriff; I like the fact that he plays his age and the script acknowledges it on more than one occasion. His deputy is played by veteran Puerto Rican actor Luis Guzman; Guzman has played the stereotypical Hispanic character in any number of films, usually as a bumbling bad guy with a very particular style of speaking; here he plays the bumbling good guy with a very particular style of speaking. In a sense, Mr. Guzman like Arnold, has essentially played himself in every film he has been in over the years! Also in the good guys’ corner, we have the ever-ridiculous star of Jackass, Johnny Knoxville…need one say more? He also seems to be playing himself, as usual. Jamie Alexander plays another one of the deputies while Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro’s acting skills are a bit wasted in a one-dimensional role as her boyfriend who is deputized when the bad guys come to town.
Arnold need all the help he can get from his team to defeat Cortez’ goons, but ultimately it boils down as usual to him and Cortez going at it mano a mano on the Mexican border. Once again, in keeping with the age of the character, it is a realistically short fight which Arnold wins because of his body weight and size.
So, overall I was quite happy with Arnold’s come-back vehicle and would place it on the same list as my other top Arnold movies of the past, listed in chronological order below:-
- Terminator (1984)
- Predator (1987)
- Total Recall (1990)
- Kindergarten Cop (1990)
- Terminator 2 (1991)
- True Lies (1994)
- The Last Stand (2013)
Arnold will be back later this year with fellow muscle man Sly Stallone in Escape Plan which opens in October. Clearly neither of the men are able to draw crowds on their own, so it looks like they will have to rely on projects like the Expendables franchise or tag-team acts like the Escape Plan for box office success.