Jee-woon Kim’s first foray in American cinema coincides with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proper return to the big screen, after his cameo in Expendables 2.
Until The Last Stand Kim was well on his way to securing a spot in the upper echelons of auteurs. This is the genius who directed A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good The Bad The Weird, and I Saw The Devil. But now he’s hit a bump in the road with this cheesy and passable action flick. I hate the word ‘flick’, but this is the kind of movie I apply it to. Something breezy and light, without substance or staying power, gone from the mind an hour after you’ve watched it.
I wonder if years from now Kim will look back and think he should have chosen a different project. Though no doubt plenty of doors have opened up to him thanks to the movie, and I guess the major selling point was the chance to work with Arnie.
The movie begins with predictable and short character arcs established for Arnie and the folk of the small town he’s sheriff of, exposition by a bored Forest Whitaker, contrived and convoluted plots to free a cartel boss and transport him via land across the Mexican border, and descends into action involving gunplay and vehicular porn, but other than a few directorial flourishes is largely boring.
Last Stand feels like a cartoon or some kind of alternate universe where an Austrian ex-bodybuilder somehow becomes sheriff of a dusty small town in Arizona, with equally oddball deputies at his disposal. He refers to himself as an immigrant at one point, but it’s still a hard scenario to swallow.
People spend most of the running time exploding with limbs flying in all directions, grannies pack shotguns, Johnny Knoxville partakes in ‘wacky’ goofy shit that’s unbearable.
It’s a b-movie with a budget, but the director does as much as he can with the material, constrained as he is by the script written by four people, and Arnie still re-adjusting to being in front of the camera. He gave a very stilted performance in Expendables 2, and though he wasn’t exactly an award-winning thespian back in his prime, he still had charisma oozing off his pores, but these days his line delivery is very off.
Last Stand fetishises guns and cars to a heightened degree, so in a weird way harkens back to the 80’s action flicks like Commando. There are plenty of adoring close-ups of killing devices which are celebrated and wielded as if they’re kitchen utensils, it’s probably not a good time for the movie considering the troubling times the USA is going through in regards to gun crime.
So a disappointment, a trial run, an experiment, but mostly just boring. It’s good to see Arnie back on screen, and good to know Kim’s career is burgeoning, but how about us viewers? We’re not doing so well. Maybe we should make a last stand too?