What can be said about Arnold Schwarzenegger and his action movies that hasn’t already been said? At this point, any person can start watching any Arnold action flick and know basically what they are going to receive. I feel like I don’t even need to explain it here. Though very few of his films could truly be called ‘good movies’, nearly all of them can be called ‘buttloads of fun’.
After ending his career as governor of Cally-for-nee-ah, Arnold appeared in his first acting gig that lasted more than part of one scene in The Expendables 2 (2012), where he kicked some ass with Bruce Willis, a shotgun, and a Smartcar.
It was a return to the ridiculous Arnold action of yore. And it was great fun.
Shortly after that, we were treated to the preview of a new movie. A new movie with Arnold in the starring role! It looked to embody all of the Arnold movie charm that we have come to enjoy over the years, with a couple small changes due to the fact the Mr. Schwarzenegger is over sixty years old. It was kind of cool to see Arnold back in the starring spot. This would be his first starring role since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003). And it would be called The Last Stand (2013).
Now if you went into this film looking for some sort of complex storyline or gripping drama or anything else that is considered part of a “good movie”, well… you’re a butthead. But it seems there are a great deal of buttheads out there, seeing as this film has received a number of negative reviews, receiving a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes, only two percent higher than X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Now, I’m not necessarily saying that it should be rated fantastically or anything, but a lot of review sites don’t seem to give it much credit and seem to go into it expecting more than a silly Schwarzenegger action movie.
But damn it, it wasn’t that bad. At no point was it trying to be anything but the aforementioned silly action movie, and it should be judged as such, which is what I am here to do today.
And I can say right now that, by that standard, it’s not bad. It does everything that it set out to do.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing wrong with it. I have some problems with Johnny Knoxville as an actor, and leading up the the release of The Last Stand, he seemed to feature rather heavily in all of the promotional materials. As you can see from the poster above, the only person featured higher than Johnny is Arnold himself. In fact, due to this weird advertising, I actually had no idea that Forrest Whitaker was even in the movie. And he’s one of the main characters! So why is Johnny Knoxville, a minor character, featured so heavily? Especially considering he’s in the movie less than just about any other main character. Is he really that big a selling point?
Now, as much as I don’t care for him as an actor, Mr. Knoxville was not too bad in here, mostly because he’s not in it too much. I think that’s the only way he can truly work. Based on his personality and the kind of roles that he takes, I think he would become grating if he were onscreen too long. But in The Last Stand, he’s in there just long enough so that his brand of humor did not become annoying and it simply added to the comedic level of the film.
Another odd, though not necessarily poor choice in casting was bring in Luis Guzman to play a police deputy. Mr. Guzman never really struck me as an action movie kind of guy. He didn’t do poorly in the role. But, in my opinion, it was difficult to see him as anything other than just Luis Guzman playing a deputy. That might sound weird, but I’m going to try and explain. Let’s take his role in another movie, Waiting (2005), where he played an irate line cook. Throughout the movie, I could see Mr. Guzman playing this irate line cook and find myself thinking, “That’s an irate line cook”. But in this role, I never really thought, “That’s a police deputy”, but rather, “That’s Luis Guzman playing a police deputy”. Make sense? Well, too bad, I’m not explaining it anymore. It’s good that he’s trying to take on different kinds of roles, but it didn’t necessarily work as well as it could have.
The rest of the casting was fine, but within that fine acting, we come across another weird issue with the film. The accents of the actors. Now of course, Arnold has his thick Austrian thing going, even though his character is named Ray Owens and where would a guy named Ray Owens develop a thick Austrian accent? But he’s been around long enough, and that kind of thing has happened often enough for us to overlook that. It’s just one of the quirks in his movies.
But then, we have the main villain, a Mexican cartel lord played by Eduardo Noriega, a Spaniard. Now, we’ve seen Spaniards playing Mexicans before, mostly in the form of Antonio Banderas, and it can work. But here, it does not. Again, the part is played fine, but his accent throws me off and makes me laugh. In trying to do a Mexican accent, Mr. Noriega ended up sounding hauntingly like Jet Li, a Chinese man.
There’s also Frank Martinez, a Mexican-American ex-marine, played by Rodrigo Santoro, a Brazilian man. He’s not very good, and his accent isn’t even close.
But by far, my favorite displaced accent has to be the one delivered by Peter Stormare, playing one of the bad guys. Mr. Stormare has a pretty strong Swedish accent, only in The Last Stand, he appears to be attempting a Texas accent. Instead, he ends up with some completely incomprehensible love child of both the Swedish and the Texan… And I love it. For the entire film, I found myself thinking, “Dude, what did you just say? Because those clearly weren’t words”. And let me tell you something. It was great. You have to realize that he’s a bad guy in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, so what he says isn’t really that important. As long as you get what’s going on around him, he could say anything and the movie wouldn’t be any less entertaining.
But again, for the most part, the acting is just fine. You won’t find any Oscar nominees here, but it’s not bad either.
As for the action, most of it is just as you’d expect. There were a couple explosions, but strangely, none of them seemed totally implausible. They were both caused by an RPG. You know, a weapon designed to make explosions. The gun fights and the blood effects were all mostly realistic and they were all practical effects rather than CG. In fact, I’m not entirely sure there was any CG in the film. If there was, it was very little, and completely unnoticeable. And that’s something that I truly appreciate. The film did have some bad shaky cam moments, which I hate so very, very much. But there weren’t a lot, so I wasn’t bugged too badly.
But there were a couple times, especially during the driving scenes where I simply had to call bullshit. When it comes to action movies, at least to me, there are two kinds of acceptable action. Action like in Children of Men (2006), where the action is all about accuracy in the physics and psychology, where all of the action seems completely real and plausible. And action as in Commando (1985), when twenty guys can be shooting at our hero and miss entirely, but our hero just waves his machine gun back and forth and takes out seven guys, where the action is more about flash, implausibility, and ridiculousness.
But it seems like, during some of these driving scenes, that the director tried to combine those two forms of action. And the result is, in my opinion, action that is a little too implausible to be real, but not implausible enough to be ridiculous and fun. And it doesn’t work. Roadblocks and police blockades are not that easy to get through. A tiny, flat little Corvette could not do that to two SWAT SUVs and only come out with a couple scratches on the hood. For the most part, the action is great. More than acceptable for the Schwarzenegger standard. But these couple of action sequences left me a little sour.
And lastly, there is something that I need to say about the story. Now, in an Arnold movie, story is not usually important… like, at all. But The Last Stand seemed to want to put a little more into it. And though that’s not a bad thing necessarily, I think they placed just a little too much importance on it. And as a result, we get a bit too much time watching Forrest Whitaker and the FBI trying to figure things out. And though I adore Forrest Whitaker as an actor, we didn’t need the scene where he questions the guy in the orange tracksuit or a number of other scenes involving the FBI. We came here to see Arnold Schwarzenegger kick bad guy ass and talk funny, and the time those scenes took could have been better spent on that.
But still, I could not help but thoroughly enjoy this movie. With the exception of a couple little missteps, The Last Stand was everything that it set out to be. The next Arnold action movie. We got all the staples: Arnold with a plain, American name and an unexplained accent delivering some silly and cheesey lines, foreign bad guys with a ridiculous plot, ridiculous action. It was a lot of fun, I have to say.
Story: 6/10: Again, this is based off of what you should expect going into it, not what makes a movie “good”.
Acting: 7/10: There was only one character that I outright didn’t like, and the accents, though horrible, were so much fun that I can’t in good conscience take a point off for them.
Cinematics: 8/10: There were some very good practical effects and little to no CGI, so it looks very good. But the shaky cam does hurt it a little.
The Last Stand in no way stands up to Arnold’s most iconic films, but it definitely holds its own and makes for nothing but an entertaining time.