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2 reviews, 6 user ratings

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Last Stand, The
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by Jay Seaver

"These guys know their action."
4 stars

"The Last Stand" is an action movie for the folks who love action movies enough to look for the good ones. It doesn't try to clobber the audience with sheer size or try to trick them into thinking they've seen something cool with quick cutting. It may not even look like anything special to audiences jaded by the continual one-upmanship of blockbusters, but its ambition is to do most things a little better than one might expect, and it succeeds often enough for this to add up.

It starts at two ends of the road: In Las Vegas, FBI Special Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) is hoping for a quiet prisoner transfer of Mexican cartel boss Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega); down in Sommerton Junction, New Mexico, Sherriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his three deputies (Luis Guzman, Jaimi Alexander & Zach Gilford) are expecting a quiet weekend while most of the town heads on the road with the high school basketball team. Cortez escapes, of course, fleeing for Sommerton Junction and the border in a souped-up sports car, but a hitch in the plan implemented by his hired gun Burrell (Peter Stormare) may have Sherriff Owens waiting for him.

Cortez's escape plan is, of course, needlessly elaborate - it requires a ridiculous number of mercenaries at both ends and at least one point in between using some fairly specialized equipment - and the circumstances necessary on the other end for Owens and company to put up a fight (a mostly-empty town and a helpful gun nut) are just as unlikely. They at least have the virtue of being amusing, involving cranes and electromagnets and cars going two hundred miles per hour and machine guns where you'd least expect them. Andrew Knauer's script seldom uses absurdity as a short cut or a way to back out of a difficult situation; it always leads to something that is fun to see.

Director Kim Jee-woon is the kind of guy those sort of action sequences can be entrusted to. He's making his Hollywood debut here, but he made some great action movies in his native Korea, and the folks who haven't seen A Bittersweet Life or The Good, the Bad, the Weird will quickly understand why his fans rave about them: He's skilled at overseeing the mechanics of an action scene at any scale from the fist-fight to the spectacle set piece, but he doesn't get so bogged down in them that he ever forgets that the purpose is to excite and thrill the audience. He's good at moving between those sizes within a sequence, establishing something as bigger-than-life while zeroing in on the human beings involved so that things have an emotional impact.

That skill also allows him to insert a laugh or two into the middle of the action without cheapening the stakes or otherwise derailing it. The action is also nicely old-school, using practical effects wherever possible and not cutting away to preserve a hypothetical PG-13. When people trade blows, either with cars or fists, there's impact the audience can feel.

This is Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback vehicle after ten years spent mostly in politics, and he wears his time away pretty well - he's still formidable physically, but it looks like things take a little more out of him now, and the weight of the character's backstory hangs on him nicely. Much of the cast manages nice turns, although some are just filling a necessary role (with Johnny Knoxville providing iffy comic relief). Still, Owens and his group make a nice unit and Storemare and Noriega have nicely contrasting styles as the villains.

They aren't playing complicated characters, but movies like these just need guys that feel real enough to exist that the audience is reminded that they're just there to fill a space. It lets things move quickly and naturally to the next bit of action gives those bits a little punch, and "The Last Stand" manages that quite nicely indeed.

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originally posted: 01/23/13 14:09:56
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User Comments

2/23/14 Charles Tatum Brisk and surprisingly violent 4 stars
6/13/13 gc Bottom line if this were not an arnold movie it would have sucked. 3 stars
6/07/13 action movie3 fan small town sherriff beats FBI at their own game-very good 4 stars
5/27/13 mr.mike Pretty good home video rental 4 stars
1/22/13 Ronald Pottol Very good vintage Schwarzenegger, very fun. 4 stars
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  18-Jan-2013 (R)
  DVD: 21-May-2013


  DVD: 21-May-2013

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