The Last Stand
Directed by Kim Jee-Woon
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzmán
First thing's first: It's great to see Arnold Schwarzenegger "back" where he belongs on the big screen. "The Last Stand" completes the Governator's transition from politics to his real home: Hollywood.
He returns to movie stardom older and, if not necessarily wiser, certainly well-equipped to reclaim his action crown. Movies have missed his unique brand of garbled English, sly humor and sincere butt-kicking.
In Kim Je-Woon's flick, Arnold plays small-town Arizona Sheriff Ray Owens, a former LAPD officer now enjoying a quiet life on the Mexican border. His desert idyll is ruined with some bad news: Drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped from federal custody and is set to cross paths with Ray and his ill-equipped deputies en route to Mexico.
The film sets up a classic Western showdown, as Cortez comes with a wealth of high-powered assets, including a car that can outrace helicopters and a scuzzy crime lord (Peter Stormare) with powerful weapons. The FBI, fronted by agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), is thoroughly unhelpful.
Kim understands the genre, having helmed the pulpy Korean Western "The Good, the Bad, the Weird," and he recognizes that this isn't exactly serious fare. His action scenes are tinged with self-referential humor, as Arnold acknowledges his aches and pains while the violence is rendered with over-the-top charm.
Ultimately, though, there isn't much of a story here. The one-dimensional villain spends most of the movie stuck in a speeding car and the cliches - especially the ridiculously tired mano-a-mano climactic bout - are a crippling distraction.
Still, there's Arnold. After nearly a decade, that's almost enough.