"At the very heart of this film is a story of the underdog, and that always makes for enjoyable and rewarding viewing..."
Having built a reputation for himself as one of the most talented filmmakers outside of Hollywood, South Korean director Jee-woon Kim presents his first feature in the English language, teaming up with Hollywood heavyweight Arnold Schwarzenegger – as the Austrian actor takes on his first lead role for a decade.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small Southern town called Sommerton Junction, where he and his colleagues Jerry (Zach Gilford), Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) and Mike (Luis Guzmán) are used to a quiet life, facing little action in their modest surroundings. This is soon to change however, as the dangerous drug cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) manages to escape from the clutches of the FBI – led by agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) – and is heading right in the direction of Sommerton, as he hopes to cross the border into Mexico. Owens and his inexperienced staff – plus local looney Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), are left with the task of halting the dangerous gangster in his tracks.
Unlike The Expendables franchise, or Sylvester Stallone's upcoming Bullet to the Head, Kim avoids playing up to Schwarzenegger's past, managing to avoid the predictable “I'll be back” one-liners and references, and rather than building a film around the star, instead he has managed to deliver a decent action flick that just happens to have Arnie in it. Nonetheless the Austrian actor is given some memorable one-liners, such as “You give immigrants a bad name” and the more subtle “I'm the sheriff”. They might not sound so impressive written down, but when delivered in true Arnie style, there is little better.
Schwarzenegger is good also, in a performance that bodes well for the array of upcoming releases he has signed on for. Noriega is also impressive, genuinely coming across as a sadistic and exceedingly difficult to stop villain, which is nothing short of imperative when wanting to adhere to an action movie – as we need to believe in the antagonist to enhance the overall enjoyment of the piece. Meanwhile, Knoxville is playing an erratic jackass who enjoys playing with weapons and jumping on top of things, and he does it well, almost as though he's done it before...
Although bearing a cliched script and following a somewhat obvious path, Kim stays true to the genre, as a film that is simply good fun. At the very heart of this film is a story of the underdog, and that always makes for enjoyable and rewarding viewing. In regards to the underdogs of the piece, Kim ensures there be personality provided to the small town cops, as the majority of the comedy in the feature derives from their wish to fight some real crime for a change.
The Last Stand is effectively telling the tale of an ageing cop presented with one final hurrah before hanging up his boots, and in a sense it's a shame Arnie isn't reflecting this from an acting point of view as it's always nice to end on a high note. Although having said that, Triplets has been announced...