Too Old, Barely Able to ‘Stand’

“I’ll be back,” as Arnold Schwarzenegger said many times in his career. And indeed, he is back — for good, this time. Now that he’s out of the political sphere, he has returned to where he truly belongs and where he’ll always be accepted by the legions with rapturous roars of approval: the big screen. Alas, “The Last Stand,” his first leading role in nearly a decade, doesn’t live up to this special occasion. On paper, it seems like the perfect movie for the Governator to make his comeback. In reality, it falls just short of what an Arnold flick should be.

In the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) keeps the peace, which isn’t very difficult considering the lack of action. But peace is made to be broken, and trouble brews in the form of Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), a cartel boss who has escaped from FBI custody and is speeding toward the town at over 200 miles an hour in his custom Corvette ZR1. But there’s no way Ray is going to let that slide, and he gathers his quirky and ragtag team of deputies to meet the oncoming threat.

“The Last Stand” is supposed to be a dumb, mindless action pic. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, as it is aware of what its intentions are and earnestly tries to fulfill them. Korean director Kim Ji-Woon does his best to make his first English-speaking film rip-roaringly entertaining and stylish. The action sequences are filmed confidently and are easy on the eyes, and the flick itself is appropriately paced. Kudos to the supporting cast, most of whom appear to be having fun with their characters.

As is customary for an Arnold movie, Schwarzenegger is the key to making “The Last Stand” work. Without him, it loses its uniqueness and would arguably be a made-for-TV pic. It is built around him, and thus should play according to his greatest strengths as an actor. Unfortunately, this is where the film feels rather underwhelming.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

For one, there are several stretches of time when the beloved actor disappears from the screen, and the supporting cast takes it upon themselves to keep things interesting. As admirable as their efforts are, none of them are Schwarzenegger. A movie that has him in the starring role should make use of him as much as possible, to have the events move around his character. Here, he’s underutilized and at times isn’t treated as the main character like he should be, thereby dampening the impact of his screen presence.

One of Schwarzenegger’s best characteristics includes his penchant for delivering memorable lines, such as “Hasta la vista, baby” or punny statements such as “Stick around” after he throws a machete into a man? No lines of such caliber are present here, which is disappointing. In fact, the only line worth remembering is his response to the question of “Who the hell are you?” which is “I’m the sheriff.” Lame.

By the way, the fact that the film uses CGI blood instead of squibs is insulting to any fan of R-rated action films. Not only does it look fake, it makes everything else that is also CGI stand out, unnecessarily taking the viewer out of the movie.

“The Last Stand” isn’t the grand entrance for Schwarzenegger that his devoted fans are hoping for, but it’s certainly a way of saying that he’s back. He’ll get better from here on out, so long as he’s treated right and has one-liners aplenty.

Recommended: But … it seems criminal to ignore the effort gone into this flick.