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Schwarzenegger makes return to action films

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 18:01

last stand poster

Lionsgate

The last time Arnold Schwarzenegger head lined a major action film was in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which was released on July 3, 2003, back when a gallon of gas only cost $1.53, Clay Aiken’s “This is the Night” was at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and SARS was the virus of the moment.

Now after running the state of California for a few years, having gone through a very public family scandal and waded back into acting with the “Expendables” films, the former Austrian body builder is back on the silver screen in the Jee-woon Kim directed “The Last Stand.”

I’ll be the first person to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Schwarzenegger. The only entry from his filmography I swear any strong feelings to is “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and the only film of his I could have conceivably seen in theaters was “Batman & Robin” in 1997, but I think I can be forgiven for expunging that experience from my memory banks.

But I can safely say the roughly 105 minutes spent watching Jee-woo Kim’s (“I Saw the Devil,” “The Good, the Bad, the Weird”) inaugural American film is not something I’d want to forget.

Schwarzenegger portrays Ray Owens, a former narcotics officer from Los Angeles who is now the Sheriff of a small town in Arizona that sits on the Mexico border. His town is the last obstacle for a drug czar who is speeding for freedom at 200 mph in a modified Corvette after being sprung from FBI custody by his cohorts in an elaborate operation that leaves Forest Whitaker’s very incompetent, and severely over acted FBI agent character sputtering in the Las Vegas night.

The worst part about “The Last Stand” is the set up. While the film is very fun once it reaches its midway point, you have to sit through some going-through-the-motions plotting, with both characters and props that scream, “We’ll bring this back later!”

Chief among these is Johnny Knoxville’s character of Lewis. Based on the marketing of the movie, I expected the “Jackass” star to be present for a large part of the movie’s runtime and to wear out his welcome quickly with very on the nose comedic shtick.

As far as the other cast goes, the assembled thespians are as rag-tag as the group Owens has assembled to defend his town. Some are great, like Jaimie Alexander (“Thor”) as a young deputy; others are what they are, like Greendale Community College alumni Luis Guzman and more than a few, especially Whitaker, are just there to fulfill the most menial plot point that overstays its welcome.

While Eduardo Noriega’s (“Vantage Point”) drug lord character is the focus of everyone’s attention in the movie, he’s irrelevant for much of the story after his escape until he arrives in Owens’ town.

Schwarzenegger is obviously getting old and the movie takes its chances to poke fun at this fact, much like in “The Expendables” and the fourth “Indiana Jones” film.

However, he does get the great moments you would expect from him in a B action flick and that’s really all this movie aspires to be.

Kim keeps the blood flow to a minimum until he dashes out some quick, yet inventive kills to make sure you’re still paying attention.

Kim also executes one of the more interesting car chases of recent memory, putting together a “Wrath of Khan” esque cat and mouse chase through a corn field, something I wouldn’t expect to see in southern Arizona.  
If you can get through the lazily scripted first act, you’ll get a rewarding, fun second half that lives up to the film’s title without anyone having to say it.

While feeling like a straight-to-DVD feature at times, “The Last Stand” is a serviceable return to the screen for a Hollywood legend,  but there’s no need to rush out to see it.

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