Monday, January 21, 2013
THE LAST STAND.....A very violent car comercial?
What a great time it is to be an action movie fan. It is also kind of a weird time as well. Who would have ever imagined that Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to the big screen in a staring role would be a modern day western directed by one of the greatest directors to come out of Korea, Kim Jee-Woon. If you haven't seen THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD, I SAW THE DEVIL or A TALE OF TWO SISTERS then you are missing out. The action movie hero torch was never successfully passed to a new generation. I know we saw an attempt with the Rock in THE RUNDOWN but he kind of fumbled it with crap like DOOM and (sigh) THE TOOTH FAIRY along with even more forgettable crap. FASTER was his best but it's too little too late. Thankfully Scott Adkins was there to catch the fumble and with the help of director Isaac Florentine was able to bring about a direct-to-video resurgence of truly great action films like NINJA and UNDISPUTED 2 and 3. But it looks like 2013 is the return of the old guys. We have THE LAST STAND with Arnold, followed by BULLET TO THE HEAD with Stallone and finally DIE HARD part 5 with the ever charming Bruce 'freakin' Willis. All three are released in the first two months of 2013. Hurray! To say the least I was really excited to see THE LAST STAND. I even got my picture with the poster. Look at how happy I am. That's probably the biggest smile you are going to get out of me. That poster was across the street by the way. It was huge. I am standing on the second floor of a parking garage.
THE LAST STAND is about an aging sheriff who realizes that he and his few deputies are the only ones able to stop a recently escaped drug lord (and part time race car driver) from crossing the border in a super fast Corvette. The movie as a whole is pretty darn good. Its not the greatest action movie in the world but it manages to be unique with its crisp dry cinematography and breezy camera movement. Arnold is showing his age but still maintains a strong screen persona. Its comes from his stone cold glare that has been missed from the big screen for so long. Forrest Whitaker is really good in this too playing an agent who is really really pissed off all the time. I guess I would be too if I let the most dangerous man in my custody get away. There is a good amount of warmth in this film coming from the cast. Arnold is the nice sheriff with a bloody past. He knows what is about to come his way. His deputies are bored with the quiet life getting themselves in trouble with their sheriff goofing around with Knoxville who they have to deputize out of desperation to use his guns to fight the baddies at the end. The supporting cast are usually the comic relief and they do a great job especially Luis Guzman. Is Guzman ever bad in anything he does? I don't think so.
Actionwise the film has some car chase stuff that at times feels like a high price car commercial debuting during the Super Bowl. Its not bad or anything but I couldn't help but think that everything looked a little too sleek and polished like a car commercial. I almost expected little words to appear at the bottom stating that this was a professional driver on a closed course. That all changes when the car runs into Arnold. There is a pretty cool showdown in the middle of the sheriff's small town with our lead hero showing up in the time to bring out the big guns to blast a few baddies ending with another car chase and a fist fight on the bridge. Not a whole lot but maybe I was just too spoiled with THE EXPENDABLES 2 which had a body count of like a billion. Even though the action scenes were nothing too spectacular they were at least pretty bloody. Gone is the big special effects heavy watered down PG-13 style of action that was so prevalent in the 90s.
Arnold is one of those actors that was so large in physical size that the film had to fit around him. That really isn't the case with THE LAST STAND. He is still bigger than most but now the movie has to accommodate his age. It works in his favor though. I like older badasses than younger ones. The older look like they have more experience and wisdom. I always preferred John Wayne over the younger Clint Eastwood. THE LAST STAND still has at least one past Arnold movie reference with a sword that looked like Conan's and they still give him a couple of one liners that kind of fall flat. Hey, at least they didn't make him say "I'm back" or some self referential crap that they always do to him.
I hope that Arnold spends his time wisely making harder edge character driven films. We don't need anymore JUNIORs or JINGLE ALL THE WAYs. I really don't want to see him return to his past series either like TERMINATOR or the CONANs. THE LAST STAND is a step in the right direction. Even though its not perfect this modern day western is at least a return to the more violent and gritty Arnold that made him the ultimate badass of the 80's. Bravo. I want more.