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"THE LAST STAND"
(2013) (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eduardo Noriega) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Drama: A small town sheriff and his ragtag group of deputies try to prevent an escaped drug cartel leader from crossing the border into Mexico.
PLOT:
In the small town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona, Ray Owens (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER) is the local sheriff. A former narcotics detective in L.A., he now prefers the smaller and quieter scene. While his three deputies -- Figgy (LUIS GUZMAN), Jerry (ZACH GILFORD) and Sarah (JAIMIE ALEXANDER) -- aren't any sort of powerhouse in terms of law enforcement, the worst thing they encounter is having to keep Sarah's ex-boyfriend, Frank (RODRIGO SANTORO), jailed for the weekend, while Figgy and Jerry enjoy doing some target shooting with the seemingly somewhat unhinged Lewis (JOHNNY KNOXVILLE) who runs the local gun museum.

All of that changes when drug cartel boss Gabriel Cortez (EDUARDO NORIEGA) manages to escape from the custody of FBI agent John Banister (FOREST WHITAKER), takes another agent, Ellen Richards (GENESIS RODRIGUEZ), hostage, and speeds toward the Mexican border in his suped-up Corvette ZR1. The FBI realizes there's only one place he can cross the border in that car and amass their forces there. But Cortez's henchmen, led by Burrell Thomas (PETER STORMARE), have other plans that end up involving Sommerton Junction.

After a violent run-in with Burrell and his team, Ray realizes they're going to be the last stand that could prevent Cortez from fleeing to Mexico and thus escaping justice. With his meager team of deputies and a few new recruits, he sets out to prevent that from happening.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Hollywood loves young people, both in terms of who appears in front of the camera as well as who they get to fill theater seats. Yes, there will always be a place for older performers and audiences above the age of thirty, but younger stars and audiences are always on the minds of studio execs. But what happens when the young starlet or strapping action hero starts to get older? The movie biz is notorious for essentially discarding most actresses long before the first wrinkles set in. Yet, it is, for the most part, a bit more lenient in terms of the men being able to carry on for years beyond their young prime.

That said, how far are audiences willing to go in accepting aging stars as action characters? Do we really want to see Jackie Chan trying to perform his signature stunts when he's eighty? How many times can Bruce Willis "Die Hard" before we no longer buy the premise or performance? Of recent, the "Expendables" movies have somewhat poked fun at that notion as they feature action stars who had their heyday many moons ago, with one of them being Arnold Schwarzenegger who made brief cameos in both films.

The first occurred while he was Governor of California, a seven-plus year stint that all but removed him from moviemaking aside from a few other cameo bits. Before then, and especially during the 1980s and early '90s, he was one of the biggest movie action stars in the world. But now that he's left politics and returned to making movies, will audiences still want to see a now 65-year-old former bodybuilder return to the genre that made him famous? Or will this truly be the star's "The Last Stand?"

Considering he's already completed shooting another flick and has several more in the pipeline, I don't see him being put out to pasture anytime soon. Thankfully, he's not attempting to embody a character younger than his age here. Furthermore, his looks and a little bit of his performance will likely remind some viewers of Clint Eastwood back in the days of "In the Line of Fire" where "the man with no name" played an aging secret service agent who'd get out of breath jogging alongside the presidential limo.

Speaking of Eastwood and some of his iconic performances, this film -- penned by scribe Andrew Knauer -- mixes the old standard Western premise of a small western town sheriff dealing with the arrival of the villain along with a more modern, heavy artillery shoot 'em up action pic. The results are a mixed bag, mostly on the negative side, although there is some welcomed familiar material for fans of The Governator's past work. Namely, that's taking care of the bad guys while delivering various, signature quips (although the one most likely remembered will be when he comments on feeling old).

That sentiment will likely be shared by those who will quickly grow tired of the film's logistical issues. The plot is simple enough. A drug cartel leader (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped from the FBI and its lead agent (Forest Whitaker) and is headed toward the Mexican border in a suped-up Corvette ZR1. It has 1,000 horsepower and can reportedly outrun any helicopter. But common sense should indicate that choppers can fly in a straight line while cars must follow the road, so unless the route to the border is super straight, that's no advantage.

Of course, a simple spike strip across the road - which wouldn't be seen at 200 m.p.h. until it's too late -- would have ended the chase, while night vision goggles would enable a view of the car despite its driver liking to avoid the authorities at night by driving without headlights. Alas, in this movie world, the FBI possesses neither.

Thus, it's up to our hero and his ragtag group of current (Luis Guzman and Jaimie Alexander) and newly appointed deputies (Rodrigo Santoro and Johnny Knoxville, the latter playing a whack-job) to do what the Feds can't. Accordingly, they set up their trap in their small Arizona town that seemingly only consists of a few blocks but, in one scene, takes part of the team minutes to come to the aid of the rest who are under heavy fire. Yes, it's just one of those flicks that wasn't thought out very well and/or is simply sloppy, and those nagging issues pretty much rob it of whatever "fun" it's trying to exude. It certainly doesn't help that Knauer and director Jee-woon Kim bungle their attempt to mix goofy, small town comedy with their action.

Perhaps they were trying to make a live-action comic book sort of movie. Whatever the case, most of the mix doesn't work (especially with Peter Stormare playing a humorless lead henchman) and the film takes far too long to get to the anticipated titular event. Those who love head shots (no, not the kind actors send out to get jobs but rather live ammo penetrating skulls with resultant bursts of blood), however, might be pleased with the ample serving of such carnage. Some of it's over-the-top enough to be silly, but using a school bus (thankfully otherwise empty of kids) in the penultimate action sequence might strike the wrong chord with many viewers sensitive to anything related to guns and schools.

Once Arnie is allowed to kick into action late in the film, however, you get brief reminders of what made him an action star so long ago, and he's still credible enough with some physicality (some of the more "dramatic" moments are another matter). But it might be time to ride that action status off into the sunset and perhaps focus his remaining movie work in another genre, such as comedy that he occasionally dabbled in way back when. "The Last Stand" has a few decent moments, but not enough to overcome its various problems, including a bevy of logistical issues. It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed January 16, 2013 / Posted January 18, 2013


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