It's been about a decade since Arnold Schwarzenegger left acting to embark on his political career. Two terms and the revelation of a secret love child later, and the ex-Governator has remained true to his famous refrain, and will indeed "be back" for his first leading role since Terminator 3 in South Korean genre-chameleon, Kim Ji-woon's The Last Stand. It's somewhat lucky for Arnie that in his absence, his old friend Sly Stallone has created a new genre of tongue-in-cheek action flicks populated with leathery, balding stars from the 1980's, geared towards the VHS generation.
The Last Stand follows Sherriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), an ex-LAPD cop who has transferred to the sleepy boarder town of Sommerton after a botched operation left his partner crippled. When notorious drug-lord, Gabriel Cortez spectacularly escapes from FBI custardy and flees towards the boarder, it is up to Arnie and his motley crew to stand their ground and prevent Cortez from disappearing across the boarder.
It's important to remember just how much of an anomaly Arnold Schwarzenegger is; an Austrian farmboy-come-Mr. Universe with no discernable talent, who became the biggest star on the planet. For some reason, no one cared that a man with a thicker accent than Dr. Strangelove was cast as the All-American hero, with names like Douglas Quaid, John Kimble and Ben Richards. America embraced Arnie because he represented their values, but the sight of him chewing the fat with the hillbillies in the local diner is as harder to swallow than the idea of him having shared a womb Danny DeVito. The Last Stand is an undeniably ludicrous film, but the fact that nobody ever asks "where exactly are you from, Ray?" requires the biggest leap of faith. It doesn't help Arnie that his acting, which was never really his strong point, has got worse since his sabbatical. He is clunkier and more awkward than ever and delivers lines with the grace of a spluttering diesel engine.
It's clear from the off that this film has its tongue firmly in its cheek, and it is fully aware of how absurd it is. However, self-awareness isn't a license for producing something as utterly stupid and witless as The Last Stand. The screenplay is made up of offcuts from Commando, True Lies and Rambo, and its idea of humour is a granny with a shotgun- a gag that would look more at home on a depressingly unfunny novelty birthday card. Kim Ji-woon directs with pace and flare, and there is fun to be had in the more action-packed scenes. But the supporting cast, which includes a weary -looking Forest Whitaker and Johnny Knoxville at his most 'zany', are nothing more than padding for Arnie to fulfill the NRA members' wet dream in the final, blood-splattered shoot-out.
The Last Stand may satisfy its target demographic of bloodthirsty adolescents, petrol heads and gun nuts capable of overlooking the terrible performances and blatant product placement, but it is ultimately a cynical piece of testosterone-infused filmmaking that is both hollow and instantly forgettable.
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