Everyone knows The Last Stand is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leading man comeback.
But it’s also the US debut of bonkers South Korean director Kim Jee-woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters, The Good, The Bad, The Weird), meaning its old-as-the-Hollywood-hills story is juiced up with stylistic verve.
Arnie plays Ray Owens, a sheriff used to rescuing cats from trees in the comatose border town of Sommerton Junction.
But trouble is heading his way in the form of drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), freshly busted from FBI custody and now motoring towards Mexico in a souped-up Corvette. (“I’ve got a psychopath in the Batmobile,” spits FBI point man Forest Whitaker.)
Not about to stand aside, Owens delivers a staccato… sorry, stirring oration to his deputies (Jaime Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Zach Gilford) and enlists the help of drunken bad boy Frank (Rodrigo Santoro) and local crackpot Lewis (Johnny Knoxville) to engage Cortez and his weapon-packing goons.
If that eclectic cast isn’t enough - and we haven’t even mentioned Peter Stormare as a heavy and Harry Dean Stanton’s belligerent farmer - then things turn quickly crazy with a car hijack straight out of Looney Tunes. (It involves, no joke, a giant magnet.)
Yet most of the madness is saved for the third act, when Arnie’s wild bunch gets hold of a tripod-mounted machine gun and cars start chasing each other through cornfields.
Okay, so maybe we could have done without the script’s hoarier cliches (at one point the Feds are reprimanded for having their “dicks in [their] hands”), not to mention a tired back-story that requires Arnie to stretch, creakily and none too convincingly, for the dignity of Gary Cooper.
But The Last Stand is still a lot of fun, a lot of the time. And it certainly beats the hell out of The Expendables...
Kim Jee-woon’s riff on the western is an entertaining frolic back-loaded with gore and guffaws. Arnie’s back!