The Last Stand review

Review Duncan Bowles 22 Jan 2013 - 07:12

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as an action lead in style with The Last Stand. Here's Duncan's review of a bullet-strewn delight...

“Ten years, man, ten! Where have you been for ten years?” so says Grosse Point Blank’s Paul Spericki, in a quote that perfectly encapsulates the feelings brought to the fore after the realisation of how long it’s been since Arnold Schwarzenegger last tore up the big screen in Terminator 3 hits.

Sitting in the screening room waiting for The Last Stand to start, it was nigh on impossible not to be flooded with endless memories of how much of my youth was affected by Arnold - from the joy of seeing Predator on VHS at a birthday party having just hit my teens, scribbling endless drawings of him on the covers of my school books, to Total Recall marking the first 18 certificate film I snuck in to see at the cinema.

If this all sounds a little dramatic, then rest assured there is a point. Schwarzenegger has been absent for an entire generation of cinema goers, so his return,  and therefore the way audiences respond to The Last Stand, will be entirely personal; his charisma, unique delivery and heroics may prove a little baffling to those who weren’t raised on a steady diet of his movies.

Thankfully, for those of us who've waited patiently for his return, The Last Stand is an absolute blood-soaked delight, an explosive, hysterical piece of action cinema that whips by so fast and so enjoyably, that when the end credits rolled, I was left desperate for more.

Stand’s greatest asset is its unashamed love for the genre. With barely a serious bone in its body, it makes no apologies for taking a high-concept plot, fleshing it out with familiar character archetypes, while surrounding them with over the top set pieces, car chases and more eruptive headshots than I’ve seen in a while. Its sense of humour is clear from the opening sequence, which is immediately cut off by a loud and dominant title announcement, perfectly setting the scene for what’s to come. I really can’t emphasise the word ‘loud’ enough, either – the noise of the supercar at the centre of the action really does boom out, as do the hundreds of bullet casings that pepper the film, an element that so many movies forget to pay attention to.

The Last Stand wastes no time in getting Arnold back on screen, with a surprisingly gentle introduction that sees him in a fittingly laid-back pair of shorts (circa Twins) as a small town Sheriff on his day off, with his character reflecting real life parallels as events head inevitably from a dialogue-driven day job, to full on movie carnage.

Once he’s re-armed and roars into action again, the body count starts ascending, things explode and the blood flies. And my how the blood flies. Even in the dark, the splatter is given a dominance that so many contemporary movies neglect, which came as an utter relief and surprise (as I knew nothing about the film's certification) and deserves praise in an age when so many films choose PG-13 bankability over guts (I’m looking at you, Taken 2). As an 80s action movie fanatic, I can’t tell you how relieved I was that Schwarzenegger chose to follow in Stallone’s footsteps by returning to the trademark violence that defined the highpoint of his career. Arnold’s always been shrewd about giving fans what they want, but the temptation to play it safe and commercial would have been a disastrous move to make – just look at the outrage that Expendables 2 caused when allegations it would be cut came out.

While it may take a little while for both Schwarzenegger and his character to warm up, they are more than adequately surrounded by quite an incredible and large supporting cast, with the first 20 minutes throwing an endless array of superb (and notoriously hammy, as befits the film) character actors into the mix, chief of which are Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman and Peter Stormare.

Fans of Knoxville may find themselves a little disappointed, as his screen time is relatively short, despite the high billing and publicity he’s been getting pre-release. Guzman and Stormare seem to have an absolute blast, though, with the former rolling out his comedy idiot routine, while the always sinister Stormare choosing to maintain an odd Texan accent throughout – I thought at first it might be a cover for his character, but apparently not – would you tell him to stop, though?

Jaimie Alexander deserves special mention, as after her promisingly brief appearance in Thor, she is given the responsibility of carrying the majority of the film's emotional weight, and puts in a great performance that helps to flesh out the main story and character developments, which in a film this chaotic and crazy, is no mean feat. Thankfully, when her moment arrives, she’s given plenty of opportunity to flex her action credentials with a sniper rifle and what looks strangely like a STARS uniform from the Resident Evil games. On what I’ve seen so far, I’m crossing fingers that she gets snapped up for the female version of The Expendables - I’ll be keeping an eye on her career from this point on, as female action stars this good are in short supply.

The Last Stand does falter on a few points, though, as Forest Whitaker's FBI headquarters plot thread feels oddly out of place. Whitaker's always great to watch, however, and  his phone conversations with Sheriff Schwarzenegger result in a great exchange of rude words - there’s nothing quite like hearing Arnie swear, after all.

Also, while Stormare delightfully owns his scenes by gnawing huge chunks out of the scenery, fellow villain Cortez (played by Eduardo Noriega) doesn’t fare quite as well, as Noriega doesn’t quite have the age or the charisma to pull off the requisite level of threat. His character is supposed to be a notorious crime boss, escorted under maximum security, but there’s something lacking in the scenes when he’s trying to utter sinister one-liners.

Liam Neeson has proved that growing older doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t still have huge box office success as an action star, and he’s remained a steady part of the mainstream, appealing to all age groups and genders through an incredible array of films (Neeson was in fact originally cast as the lead in Stand), so Schwarzenegger faces a much tougher challenge now to regain his crown as the worlds’ biggest action star.

The good news is that, with The Last Stand, Arnie has picked a fine way to relaunch his career, in a film that ranks as his best in 15 years (since the underappreciated End Of Days) and with The Tomb out in September, and Ten out next year, it's great to see him back where he belongs.

The Last Stand opens on the 25th January in the UK.

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You gave Zero Dark Thirty 3 stars, and this 4 stars?

Wow, someone should tell the Academy how wrong they got it this year!

Haha! Don't they always? The Oscar for Arnie campaign starts here!

I still he should have got one for Twins.

Or at least 'best supporting actor' for The Terminator!

Zero Dark Thirty - who cares ! Arnie's back ! : )

four star!

I didn't know Jaimie Alexander was in this. Awesome. I loved her in Thor. I think out of the three Arnie films Ten looks the most promising.

Surely going to the movies is all about being entertained? If this Arnie flick does that more than ZDT then it deserves its extra star? I haven't seen either yet but if ZDT is along the same lines as The Hurt Locker than we're in for a snoozefest. At least Arnie provides some 'turn your brain off' thrills (hopefully!)

Seriously? Four stars? The writing, plot and characterisation are below laughable. It's a fun flick, but this is one of the worst put-together films I can remember, redeemed only by Arnie's performance, nostalgia and a 20-minute period when the film decides to throw everything at the screen. I'd give it 2 stars, or perhaps a low 3 for Arnie fans (which includes me) but let's not pretend this is anywhere near a good film. That would be a very depressing comment on the state of the industry. We should encourage better standards than this.

Yeah I agree. I was not doubting or having a go at the reviewer. I was sarcastically having a dig at the Oscars. Which we all now is complete bollox.

Jaimie Alexander is in this? Why wasn't that played up more? Hell, I would have to see it then had I known!

I guess she's a lesser known name, but is definitely the second star role!

My argument is always that movies deserve to be ranked according to genre. People love a wide variety of action movies, yet most of them don't come close to being this much fun. Plus the lack of good, clean, simple fun is lacking from most recent action flicks - most are grey, gritty, post-Bourne copies (which I also love) but Last Stand brings back some of the joy that's missing.

My fault - the review was already too long, so apologies!

Gold star!

This is getting great reviews but has absolutely tanked at the US box office. Perhaps they should re-release it as a double bill with Dredd!!

Please don't place this movie in the same anything as Dredd... Dredd was really good, this movie was mediocre - entertaining, and I'm waiting for his next, but I wont be watching Last Stand again.

I wonder how many people who love watching "turn your brain off" movies actually use their brains most of the time. Not having a go at anyone, the movie was entertaining, just a question.

I really enjoyed it for a bread dead action movie.

I've seen it, and can officially say Arnie is back. The Last Stand is up there with Predator, Total Recall and The Terminator. Go watch it, otherwise they won't make action films like this anymore!

I would love to see a list of what you think qualifies as a great action movie. If you can't appreciate the return to physical stunts, lots of fire power, and incredibly well directed action sequences, then you are an idiot. Master of Zinj? Master of Disaster, more like!

You're review is spot on. Sadly most people have no taste and would rather watch Transformers. I think the world is full of morons.

Not sure why I'm replying so late on (apart from that I just hadn't checked) but for what it's worth, my idea of a great action film is stuff like Die Hard, Predator, The Raid. I'm just tired of seeing so many movies that feel half-baked. I watch a lot of films, and more than my share of brainless action films (which, don't get me wrong, I do enjoy), but something about this one just felt more transparent. I guess I'm just a bit jaded, but I wanted to see Arnie return in a better film. Every time he's on the screen, it's a fun film. But that doesn't redeem the "can't be arsed" nature of the rest of the film, especially the dialogue, which is pure exposition, without any attempt to dress it up. I'd call it a piss-take, but it's not smart enough for that - it's just lazy. So, basically, I just wanted more, and I'm tired of watching films where I go "well that was ok" afterwards and instantly forget about it. I don't think wanting a film that sustains a level of quality all the way through is being a moron or lacking taste, but I accept that I do come across as a little grumpy. My point being: imagine what an entire film as crazy as the fight scene in the town would've been like. It would have been a cult classic.

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