Saturday, December 7, 2013

(NOT) Love Actually: The Last Stand

Award season is in full swing for movies with serious, adult themed dramas and tragedies filling up Cineplex's for hours at a time.  We'll start seeing best of lists from people who have never made a movie and then we'll get that bullshit meat market, campaign trail, old white guy mecca known as The Oscars.  Hundreds of films are released a year but the big, noteworthy ones find themselves in a glut around holiday time to fight for voter attention and critical prestige.  A movie with no award prospects but one I thoroughly enjoyed upon release and have revisited since is Arnold's failed comeback vehicle, The Last Stand.  The flick tanked back in January, grossing a meager $12 million on a reported $40 million budget.

I'm not here to talk about what went wrong, I'm here to rap about what went kick ass about the flick.  The pedigree behind The Last Stand is quite impressive; producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has enjoyable credits like Four Brothers, Red and Transformers to his name while Korean director Kim Jee-Woon makes his US debut after the lyrical action drama A Bittersweet Life and gonzo western The Good, The Bad and The Weird.  A low watt yet recognizable cast including Forest Whitaker, Harry Dean Stanton, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro show up to support the aging Arnold.

The Last Stand shows Arnold's intelligence as an actor coming back to the game after a long layoff.  Instead of beating the drum of his own one man band a la Stallone, Arnold again aligns himself with a strong director and talented crew.  The flick is about the best example of a past era movie star trying to compete in the current cinema landscape.  Arnold's portrayal of sheriff Ray Owens is a little stiff but he's still strong, charismatic, funny and able to handle himself in the action.  As Clint Eastwood continued to convincingly play tough guy roles into his retirement years, Arnold carries the tradition if not quite as successfully.

The flick concerns an egomaniacal Mexican cartel leader escaping the feds and making a run for the border in a stolen, souped up Corvette.  Said villain pulls a fast one and avoids the major entry point, opting to have his lackies build a bridge over a narrow canyon in the town of Summerton; sheriff'd by none other than our "worked in LA, saw too much blood and came back to the quiet town" guy Arnold.  With a ragtag crew of rookies and outcasts, Arnold takes on the cartel's goons and makes, The Last Stand.

From beginning to end, The Last Stand is a fun flick.  A flick audiences can feed off each other's laughing and cheering.  It's funny, fast, violent and exciting.  Shootouts, car chases, car flipping, foot chases, cornfields, brawling, falling and grannies with guns provide cathartic mayhem.  I saw it at a preview screening and couldn't believe how much fun it was.  The crowd was so into it and walking out there was a general buzz of good feeling.  Unlike Stallone's Bullet to the Head where audience members didn't know whether to applaud or be appalled at the hyper violent and racist goings on to the point that goers shushed and made fun of each other.

Nods are made to Arnold's age and history as a badass but the film never makes him out to be Superman or tries to recreate his image as the stoic and pumped up hero of Predator or Conan.  That's what I like about the flick, it's doing its best to take Arnold's baggage into a new direction.  He's not the guy from Commando or Terminator anymore so let's not try to hide it.  Whereas Stallone struck higher financial success with The Expendables, the clunky ass action series that highlights his plastic surgery and supplement regimen while showcasing the fact he can't let go and always has to be top dog.  But Arnold then and now, is always concerned with "the movie" and making it the best it can be.  With The Last Stand, he proves again why he'll always be The King of Kings.

Arnold needs to do more of these things:

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