Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Last Stand

Lowdown: There’s only one thing between this runaway Mexican drug cartel lord and the Mexican border: Sheriff Arnie.
It’s been a long while since we’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger take a lead role in a movie based around his physical qualities, but The Last Stand breaks that winter spell. It does so with style, taking its hero’s age into account as it provides us with a simple action film. An action film that, despite being heavy on the clichés, fully delivers.
Sheriff Ray (Schwarzenegger) is dedicated to his job of running the law at a small desert town near the USA’s border with Canada. Ray is so good at his job that despite having rather clueless deputies he seems to manage fairly well. Perhaps it’s the setting: his is one of those towns where everybody knows everyone, to the point where a couple of new truckers having breakfast at the diner are immediately noted.
In parallel we witness the FBI as its fortified caravan is brought to its knees and the Mexican drug cartel lord it was transporting runs away. The latter now occupies a super sports car, rushing to the Mexican border with a hostage inside; the former, headed by Forest Whitaker, is quickly running out of options. One option the FBI never seems to recognise, though, is that of our dedicated sheriff.
What follows is a basic action movie. By basic, I mean an action movie that doesn’t rely on spectacularly expensive special effect; instead, it relies on, well, action. I have to say I haven’t seen me such an action movie since those early eighties escapades featuring Clint Eastwood, at least not one that was genuinely well made. And thus I have to say I loved The Last Stand greatly: despite all the clichés about the inadequate crew, the simple rawness of things saves the day. Aid from the much expected one liner department (think “hasta la vista, baby”) helps; aid from the less expected comedy department, especially the one that refers to our hero’s age, helps even more.
What I ended up watching is a rather simple film that I found to be surprisingly entertaining. There are also some nice touches, such as the team work with which the simple town takes down the mighty cartel: what first seems to shape up as a High Noon style setup, with Ray refusing to let go of his principles in the face of insurmountable adversaries quickly turns out to be a group effort that shows us a lot of good things can happen when people cooperate for the greater good.
I don’t know if it’s the title that did it, but The Last Stand does feature some big names making surprise appearances to Arnie’s side. I already mentioned Whitaker, but then there are also Harry Dean Stanton and Peter Stormare, one of Fargo’s baddies reprising his “old” role and doing so very well. It’s fun to see these people having fun in this movie. Indeed, if The Last Stand stands for something, it would be for standing tall till the end.
Overall: Old style done well. I liked it a lot, and therefore I will be generous. In the context of the genre and the circumstances, I’m giving The Last Stand 4 out of 5 juicy crabs.
P.S. It’s good to have Arnie back!

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