Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: The Last Stand

If you enrolled in the kind of film school that runs advertisements on the inside of a match book and took a class called Action Films 101, then The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger would be your first case study.  The latest in a recent trend of movies featuring a way-over-the-hill action star, The Last Stand is a paint-by-numbers approach to adrenaline movie making with very few pretensions and some tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that manages to moderately entertain without really telling much of a story.  But then when was the last time anyone watched a Schwarzenegger vehicle and cared about the story.  Terminator 2?

The happenings of this film center upon an event that is about to occur - drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) breaking out of federal custody and making a run for the border.  Standing in the way of he and his goons are a small town Sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger), his deputies, and some townies.  Each has his/her own micro backstory, which serves as some semblance of a plot, but the film is entirely about the skirmish that is brewing - noting more and nothing less.

What Went Right:

The Action.  The scope of the movie is small, but the action sequences still deliver what you would expect from the setup - chase scenes, gunplay, and fisticuffs.  There’s nothing groundbreaking about the way these scenes are framed, but the visuals are clean and give the actors the opportunity to be actively present in the shots – one of the major advantages to avoiding the perils of an unsteady cam.

The Humor.  While no one will mistake this for an episode of Seinfeld, there is a self-awareness with this film (that Arnold is practically calcifying before your very eyes), which allows the film and its cast to poke fun at itself. Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville  do a nice job of adding non-AARP levity to the proceedings, ensuring that at no time does it feel like director Jee-woon Kim is taking the source material too serious.

What Went Wrong:

The Cast.  We know who Schwarzenegger is as an actor so it feels absurd to judge his performance, especially since they are all exactly the same.  The rest of the cast, however, gets no such pass.  Forest Whitaker is too good an actor to accept roles as the third star in a mindless action flick only to completely disappear.  And Jaimie Alexander fails to show the same charisma that made her a fan favorite in Thor.  Genesis Rodriguez, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stomare, and the rest of the cast – from top to bottom each delivers one dimensional performances that are substandard even for a movie of this ilk.

The Writing.  Jee-Woon Kim is a good director who knows how to frame a shot and tell a story, but unfortunately writer Andrew Knauer has not given him much to work with.  The bread and butter of this movie is its action, but that doesn’t mean some ink can’t be shed for the purpose of fleshing out the characters.  Without those details, it is nearly impossible to become invested in the peril unfolding onscreen.

The Final Verdict:

At best this is a rental, especially if you are an action movie enthusiast but for those who are more casual about their movie preferences, this is an FX, TNT, USA movie all the way.  So much of what goes on is completely forgettable and will be forgotten about fifteen minutes after you turn off the television, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an adequate way to pass a bit of spare time – unless you are one of those people who owns all of Nicholas Sparks’ books, in which case you will most likely loathe everything about this flick.  The choice then is yours.

Standout Performance: Zach Gilford.  For those Friday Night Lights fans out there, it was nice to see Matt Saracen onscreen again.


Post a Comment