GET TO DA MULTIPLEX! Arnold is back in The Last Stand; his first starring role since Terminator 3 in 2003. If that fact doesn’t excite you, then you’re not going to be dashing to catch it at the cinema any time soon. However if you are excited, then this will more than likely satisfy any basic Arnie cravings you might have had over his ten year absence. In fact, it’s possible that this is his best film since True Lies, however one look at his filmography post-1994 would indicate that it wouldn’t be too hard to beat. It takes a little while to go get going admittedly, but once it hits its stride The Last Stand delivers more or less what every fan was wanting: tongue-in-cheek bloody violence and the welcome return of everyone’s favourite crazy Austrian. No, not Michael Haneke, although that would’ve been delightful.
Schwarzenegger plays small-town Sheriff Ray Owens (aye, right), an ex-LA cop who has retreated to the border town of Sommerton to escape the pressures of the big city. Only problem is, a super-criminal in a ridiculously fast car is hurtling towards the border at 200 mph, pursued by Forest Whitaker and his team of FBI agents. Owens and his band of misfits are therefore the last hope of catching him before he hurtles across into Mexico. It’s simple, borderline moronic stuff. The initial 45 minutes is slow going, and there’s a lot of exposition for a plot that doesn’t hold the attention or beg for explanation. Arnold is also mostly absent during this time, the focus being on Whitaker or bad-guy lackie Peter Stormare.
Thankfully, the film steps up a gear or six for the final showdown: a gloriously violent gunfight, reminiscent of many a Spaghetti Western and hints of Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado. Once it starts, it doesn’t let up: the jokes and the punches come think and fast, and there are blood squibs a-plenty. Arnold really hits his stride in full action man form after an uneasy start, and the supporting characters have their moments: even Johnny Knoxville seems less obnoxious than usual. From Arnold performing head shots in mid air, to exploding men and an MMA bridge fight, the action is inventive and a lot of fun. It’s clear that this has been the work of Jee-Woon Kim, cult Korean director of The Good, the Bad and the Weird. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t given more creative freedom: set loose, he could have really delivered something crazy and original. As it is, the film suffers from an extremely bloated first half, which must be endured before you get to the entertainment. It delivers, it’s just disappointing as it becomes clear that this could have been so much more. Overall though, The Last Stand is far from perfect, but for a come-back film Arnie could have done a hell of a lot worse. He certainly has done in the past: let’s just hope this wasn’t a one off.