Jee-woon Kim is one of my favourite directors, despite the fact that I’ve only seen three (well, now it’s four) movies from his filmography. Two of those movies are 10/10 experiences for me, I Saw The Devil and A Tale Of Two Sisters, and the other, A Bittersweet Life, is a solid 8/10. I was worried when I heard that his first big film made in America would be an action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but after I saw the trailer I started to relax. Maybe he could do a decent job, even if the film wasn’t going to be on a par with his previous outings.
Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens, the sheriff of a small, quiet town near the border between America and Mexico. Owens has done his time elsewhere, he left the big city after seeing too much blood and death, so he likes the quiet life. His deputies – Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander and Zach Gilford – also like the quiet life. The town is quiter than usual, with a lot of people off to watch a big football game elsewhere, but it’s about to get very, very noisy as an escaped drug czar, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), heads their way in an attempt to cross the border and escape the federal agents after him (Forest Whitaker heading up those in pursuit). There may not be an easy way to cross the border but Cortez has an advance party creating a bridge for him to use in his escape plan. Owens and his men are the only thing standing in his way. They’re outnumbered and outgunned, but they’re determined to put up a fight.
Working from a script by Andrew Knauer, Jee-woon Kim really delivers the goods for action fans. This is fast-paced, bloody stuff that also keeps the sense of fun in between the moments of tension. Schwarzenegger does a great job in the lead role, but it’s a real bonus for the film that viewers aren’t just rooting for an old peacekeeper going up against the many, heavily-armed and well-trained villains. That would be fine, but the film has an extra resonance because viewers are rooting for an old Arnie. Can he still cut it as an action hero? Yes, yes he can.
Despite this being very much Arnie’s movie, the rest of the cast all do a fantastic job. Well, Johnny Knoxville pretty much repeats the role that he played in Walking Tall. That may be enough to put some people off, I quite enjoyed his schtick. Guzman, Alexander and Gilford are particularly enjoyable as the deputies ill-prepared for such a major job. They’re not cowards, and they’re not comedically inept at every part of their job, but they are shown to be afraid and completely out of their depth. Rodrigo Santoro is also easy to root for, playing a local locked up in the cells for the weekend who is deputised for the upcoming stand-off. Forest Whitaker, Daniel Henney and Genesis Rodriguez do well as the federal agents all speeding towards the Mexiac border, despite being two steps behind at all times, and Eduardo Noriega makes for a suitably determined villain. He’s not, however, the only villain. Peter Stormare has a blast as the leader of the advance party, responsible for making the bridge that the fleeing drug czar will use, and provides the main threat to Arnie and his colleagues.
The film may have underperformed at the box office, but don’t let that put you off. Jee-woon Kim provides action movie fans with a great film that feels both fresh and very traditional (as mentioned on the featurettes, it’s essentially a Western with a drug czar in place of a cattle rustler). I hope it finds a more appreciative audience when it hits DVD/Bluray. It deserves to.
The Last Stand comes out on disc here in the UK on Monday 27th May. Extras include a “making of…” featurette that lasts for about 28 minutes, featurettes on the main car chase and the firearms shown in the film, some first person footage (going by the name “actor-cam anarchy”) from Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander and deleted and extended scenes. Not a bad selection.
DIRECTOR: JEE-WOON KIM
WRITER: ANDREW KNAUER
STARS: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FOREST WHITAKER, PETER STORMARE, EDUARDO NORIEGA, LUIS GUZMAN, JAIMIE ALEXANDER, RODRIGO SANTORO, JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, ZACH GILFORD, CHRISTIANA LEUCAS, GENESIS RODRIGUEZ, DANIEL HENNEY
RUNTIME: 107 MINS APPROX