Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Last Stand (2013) Movie Review

Not as invested in the much-publicized return of one Arnold Schwarzenegger than of the American film debut of one Kim Ji-woon, this by-the-numbers tribute to all things Spaghetti Western is only mildly punctuated by moments directorial panache.

 On a sleepy weekend in Sommerton, New Mexico, town Sheriff, Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) & his young and less than experienced staff become entangled at ground zero when a major drug cartel leader & escaped federal prisoner bullets down the American southwest, toward the Mexican border. With the feds (led by an often bewildered Forest Whitaker)in hot pursuit, and suspicious activity happening in the outskirts of town, Ray and his team must make do with what little they have to stop the Corvette 01 speeding Gabriel Cortez(Eduardo Noriega) from getting past them, even if it includes deputizing a few
 unexpected individuals.
And with this simple premise, and even more lightweight script by Andrew Knauer, the film is often better executed than the bulk of 80s action hero returns over the last several years. It isn't so much a chest-thumping celebration of old school tongue-in-cheek action, but rather an often sincere love letter to some of the earliest ancestors of the genre. And while the trappings and violence seem more on par with modern action films, the nods to most notably the spaghetti western are grand and obvious from the battle plans, to the end goal.

Problems arise when the supporting cast is often given uneven coverage, and the messages inherent in setting the film in modern day lead to some questionable notions. The villain and FBI footage often flounders in generics to the point of feeling like a cable television movie at times. And as a result, the heavy lifting goes to Owens and his town which often feels like a stand-in for "anytown USA", which could have been so much more. But as it stands, we never really get the stakes, nor a solid foothold as to what his character truly values. And while a lot of what is on screen is well-intentioned, it really feels like the cut on display felt desperate to get to the action(which does take up nearly the entire second half). Ji-woon does what he can to weave an exciting action melange, but is often whittled down to results that many might just consider average. It also doesn't help that so many character names don't seem to jibe in any sensical manner. (and just what is Peter Stormare's character supposed to be?) And while it does deliver for the most part, The Last Stand really is an American demo reel for a director who is capable of incredible things.

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