2016.28: The Last Stand (Network Airing, HD)
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to Hollywood following years spent in politics pretty much began with this low-key action movie which I’ve only just caught up with. This choice of movie was a pretty shrewd move on Arnie’s part- the years of him being the worlds biggest box-office draw were long gone, and he’d no longer be easily linked to old friends like James Cameron in Triple-A blockbusters. So a return to what he always did best- formulaic action films that have limited demand on his acting- was an easy path to take and this film seems pretty much designed for him. Testing the waters to see if he’d still got a film career ahead of him.
Its fun, it’s simple, and it’s surprisingly entertaining- featuring a bunch of likeable good guys and some pretty obvious bad guys, it features a fairly routine plot that isn’t challenging but does reward time spent watching it. The story concerns a Mexican drug-trafficker, Gabriel Cortez, on the run from the FBI in Vegas, racing towards the border in a supercar and aided in his bid for freedom by hired thugs with lots of guns. His route to escape over the border has him headed to the border town of Sommerton, a sleepy backwater place where only Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) and his bunch of misfit deputies stand in the way of Cortez and his army of thugs.
Much is made of Sheriff Owen’s age during the film, and coupled with remarks towards his previous exploits in the Big City they are obvious nods to Arnold’s own age and glittering career. All Owens wants now though is the Quiet LIfe and Cortez and his thugs shatter that completely, forcing the reluctant Sheriff to step up to the plate one last time. Essentially The Last Stand is a Western, one transposed to the present day. Owens is warned that Cortez is on the way and then waits for the inevitable showdown just like so many Hollywood Sheriffs have in the past. Bad guys ride into town in trucks and cars instead of horses and the gun quota is racked up a few notches but the genre conventions like the Sheriff deputising civilians to try save the town are welcome reminders of Western films from the fifties. The film even features the genius cameo of Harry Dean Stanton as a farmer, and I got to admit, the film had me won over soon as Harry showed up.
The easy-going, traditional feel of the film is somewhat at odds with some of the very extreme violence of some of the action set-pieces that clearly sets it as a modern film, but it closes with an old-fashioned fist fight between Owens and Cortez that is pure old-style Western and all the better for it. In the old days, tagging Arnie against a foe not equal to his muscular frame was always like a bad joke but with his age in the mix you really feel its a more realistic/threatening match-up.
It’s not a great film but it is an oddly comforting one. There is something great about having Arnold back in starring roles in simple action movies just doing what he does best. It’s a reminder of better, bigger glories, yes, but there is plenty of entertainment to be had here and the whole thing works very well.