Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in his first leading role in over a decade in Kim Jee-Woon’s The Last Stand. The film also happens to be the director’s first American feature, having previously only made foreign films such as I Saw the Devil and The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The Last Stand is a fairly pedestrian action film, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s an R-rated throwback to the 90’s that centers around a high-stakes plot that rarely adds up, but is a blast watching from start to finish, if only to see the veteran action star return to his throne with a little rust and a lot of style.
Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) runs a peaceful little town out in the middle-of-nowhere. He likes the simple life, despite having lived a busy one when he was once working in a much larger city. Now, the most action he gets is telling the locals to keep their fancy sports cars out of no-parking zones.
One quiet day suddenly goes to shit as a criminal by the name of Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes the FBI’s custody and somehow manages his way into a super-fast sports car that reaches speeds of over 200 miles-per-hour. His plan is to cross the border into Mexico somewhere near Owens’ little town.
Owens must now round up some troops and defend the town before FBI agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) and his team arrive. Does the old and broken Sheriff have what it takes to put up one last fight or his he too far past his prime to make an effective lawman?
Kim Jee-Woon’s The Last Stand is a fairly basic action movie, working off of a ludicrous plot that’s paper thin and full of absolutely no surprises. But then director Kim Jee-Woon flashes his skills as an action director, while also firmly reminding us why we loved watching Schwarzenegger so much back in the 80’s and 90’s. Together the two turn a simple shoot ‘em up action movie into something slightly more enjoyable.
The Last Stand is a film that slowly grows on you. The film has some troubles starting up early on, relying too much on corny dialogue and fast cuts of pointless set up, but the action does unravel in good time. Character reveals are kept short and sweet, with the only one you really need to worry about being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s broken down and burnt out Sheriff Owens.
Owens is your typical lawman that’s simply too old and too worn down to care about anything aside from his morning coffee. But when tested he clearly produces results.
Arnold was never known for his Oscar level performances and instead his on-screen charisma as an action star bad ass. In The Last Stand he eases back onto the screen, even making fun of his own rusty delivery at times with a giant wink and a smile. But as the film progresses, so does he. Eventually he’s blasting shotguns and beating bad guys to a pulp with his bare hands and it is at these very moments that you’re going to want to get up and start cheering.
The Last Stand is his full-swing comeback to the silver screen and his return is nothing short of spectacular.
Director Kim Jee-Woon deserves just as much credit. He’s known for his kinetic camera movement and that certainly applies to The Last Stand. He takes action sequences that would traditionally be shot with lots of up close shots and quick cuts and decides to pull things back and focus on delivering fluid nature action that’s much more inventive. The way the camera glides around any given scene is impressive, especially because Jee-Woon never sacrifices character placement or spatial awareness.
He knows exactly how to maximize the potential of any given action scene, even if CGI blood is occasionally forced into what should be mostly practical work. Jee-Woon’s action is top notch filmmaking that American filmmakers need to study and learn from.
The rest of the film coasts by on being fine. Peter Stormare and Johnny Knoxville give memorable performances that never slide past Arnie, but still help the film pop when in need of a different flavor. Forest Whitaker is in the film so little that his name barely registers when it pops up on the opening credits.
The Last Stand works as a solid piece of action because of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s on-screen presence and because of director Kim Jee-Woon’s eye for action. Take both of them out and you’re left with an action film that’s been done a million times before. There’s just something about Schwarzenegger that is unique and special. He has a certain talent that most action stars do not have today, aside from maybe Dwayne Johnson.
Kim Jee-Woon’s action is unmatched by any other director working in the field today and his work on The Last Stand shows us that you can take a silly plot and a forgotten star and deliver something that almost feels refreshing and new, even though it gets by on being a throwback to films from the 90’s. The Last Stand is fast-paced, action-heavy and shot with a visual eye towards maximizing the action with fluid motion and a steady camera.
Lionsgate transfers the film to Blu-Ray with a mostly impressive 1080p video transfer that features strong nighttime colors and lots of stability, despite Jee-Woon’s always-on-the-go filmmaking style. Black levels are deep and clean, while most of the daytime stuff pops out as warm and sun-soaked. The CGI blood can be a little distracting at times, but most of the film’s action has strong contrast, making for a stunning presentation.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track blows the roof off and then some. Lionsgate’s track starts thumping from the very first scene and continues to make a rather loud impression until the very end. Gunshots whiz across the channels, while the hard-hitting action comes crashing down mostly on the rear channels. Dialogue is withheld to the front channels and is never a problem, despite the film’s intense action-heavy sequences squeezing their way in.
Here’s a list of bonus material found on the disc:
- Not In My Town: Making The Last Stand (HD): Nearly 28 minutes of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that offer an interesting look at the making of the film.
- Cornfield Chaos: Scene Breakdown (HD): A look at one of the film’s more interesting car chase sequences.
- The Dinkum Firearm & Historic Weaponry Museum Tour (HD): An interesting piece that focuses on some of the older weapons used in the film.
- Actor-Cam Anarchy with Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Extended Scenes (HD)
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
What’s not to love about The Last Stand? Action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in a bloody R-rated shoot ‘em up film that pretty much plays out exactly like the films of his that we grew up on. Only this time director Kim Jee-Woon injects a little new-wave flavor with is hyper kinetic filmmaking style that keeps the camera moving and exploring, without too many quick-cuts or zoom-ins.
The Last Stand is a throwback action film that works because of Jee-Woon’s approach and Arnie’s full-fledged return as an action movie superstar worth rooting for. Everything else is fairly basic and predictable, but the film is still worth a look if you’ve been craving a good piece of action. This Blu-Ray comes highly recommended because of Lionsgate’s perfect 7.1 audio track and their reliable video transfer that captures Jee-Woon’s crazy action sequences without the slightest problems.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.
The Last Stand is a fast-paced, action-heavy throwback, shot with a fluid visual eye by Kim Jee-Woon. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back and better than ever in a role that we've been waiting years for him to play again.