Aneesh Chaganty

The Last Stand | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2013 at 6:46 PM

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The Last Stand 

(2013, US, d. Kim Ji-Woon)

Kim Ji-Woon’s first foray into Hollywood storytelling is The Last Stand, a shoot-em-up story about ex-LAPD-narcotics-officer-turned-small-town-sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Owens, after discovering that a fugitive is on the run from LA to the Mexican border in a high-speed vehicle, decides to stop him in a stand-off in the small town of Sommerton, Arizona.

Director Kim Ji-Woon has a very impressive resume, featuring one of my favorite films of the last decade (The Good, The Bad, and the Weird) and a variety of other acclaimed ones (I Saw the Devil, A Tale of Two Sisters). But the problem with foreigners making American films that are so innately American is that there’s very little to culturally ground the story. I’m not saying there aren’t positives to the endeavor. In fact, Ji-Woon, like many of his South Korean filmmaker peers, is able to tell stories from unique perspectives and deftly carry unique tones throughout a movie.

The problem is that The Last Stand is a modern-day western. And there is nothing about this film that suggests any sort of basis in American culture, whatsoever. Despite its protagonist (who’s walked straight out of a John Wayne film), it’s setting (a small desert town in Arizona), it’s antagonists (Mexicans), its conflict (escaped prisoners), and its method to overcome its obstacles (a plethora of weapons), this film couldn’t feel more foreign than it does.

First off, we have Peter Stormare playing Burrell, a Southern construction owner/gangster. Stormare is Swedish and for the duration of his speaking lines in the entire film, I was wondering what the hell is accent was supposed to be.

Secondly, there was no honesty in its portrayal of Somerset. It almost felt like we were watching a town through a museum glass. It had all the right parts, it looked the right way, and it was set in the right place, but there was something foreign and inanimate that swept over it all.

Oh yeah, and then there’s Schwarzenegger as the Sheriff. His first leading role since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Schwarzenegger is at his best or worst here (depending on how you look at it). In a sure to be Razzie-nominated (if not Razzie-winning) performance of 2014, the ex-California governor botches every line, every piece of action, and every briefly emotional moment and turns it into something of an amusing spectacle. A train-wreck of sorts, that the audience watches over and over and over again with every new line.

Granted, it’s not like the script itself deserves much credit either. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine that writer Andrew Knauer (writer of the Slamdance indie hit “Ghost Team One”) took any longer than 2 hours to think of the entire plot of The Last Stand. Even if you take its heroes out of the equation, every other character was so poorly written, audience members in the theater were looking at me and asking me to lower my laughter during the dramatic scenes. That’s how bad it wasI won’t even get into the recycled set-pieces (But seriously: the entire premise of the film is based off the existence of a Corvette that can not only travel above 190 miles/hour but also, miraculously, never needs gas??!?).

Forest Whitaker has never been worse. Neither has Luiz Guzman. Even Johnny Knoxville, who I can’t stand, deserves better material than what he’s given here: a sort of fictional version of the idiot he plays in the Jackass series.

The most uninspired, unoriginal, bland, repetitive, and mindless piece of “entertainment” of 2013, The Last Stand is a sad blotch on an incredible director’s filmography.

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