It’s been ten years since Arnold Schwarzenegger has played the lead role in a film. Prior to his stint as Governor of California, he was iconic for his uber-masculine, badass, gung-ho personas that have appeared in a number of genres. In sci-fi, there was Schwarzenegger’s cold, mechanical Terminator that just kept coming back. In action, there was his ex-military turned one man army John Matrix in Commando. Then there are the films that shouldn’t be touched with a 20-foot pole, such as his role as Mr. Freeze in the god-awful Batman & Robin. I mean the amount of stupid ice puns, like “What killed the dinosaurs? The ICE AGE!” may as well be a big warning for viewers to stay the fuck away from that abomination.
But we forgive you, Arnie. However, in portraying the lead for Jee-Woon Kim’s first American outing, The Last Stand, has Kim given Schwarzenegger the glorious return he deserves or fallen short of this mark?
Following his escape from senior FBI agent John Bannister (Forest Whittaker), drug cartel leader Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), makes a 200 mph dash to the Mexican border in a suited up Corvette Z1 (yes, the writers made this fact relevant, as will I) whilst using his racing experience and loyal cartel members to literally obliterate any blockades in his way. As the title suggests, the last stand against Cortez’s rampage to freedom is Summerton’s own Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), a retired L.A. narcotics cop, his band of deputies and one Johnny Knoxville who, as always, puts the stupid in a film.
If you go into The Last Stand expecting to see the same old Schwarzenegger, it is best for me to break those expectations and tell you that Ray Owens is not like the Arnie characters audiences have come to adore. As Owens says during the final battle after diving through a window, “I’m old”, and even needs a pair of glasses to examine a murder victim. But by accepting this fact, Arnie creates a character in Owens that does not try to act like his younger self but instead as a character who stands as the father figure/guardian to his deputies and the town of Summerton. However, that doesn’t mean Owens isn’t a badass 65-year-old. Oh no. He asserts himself as the Sheriff of Summerton by having the biggest car, actually shooting his targets unlike his bumbling deputies and not pussying out when he gets injured on numerous occasions.
The only let down for Schwarzenegger and The Last Stand is its script. You get the feeling that the narrative is trying to be like several TV cop dramas, such as 24 and CSI, and does so unsuccessfully. There is a serious lack of quotable Arnie-puns and it takes an hour before he actually shoots someone. Much of the information is spoon-fed to the audience, like Owens’ past as an L.A. Cop. Finally, there is Knoxville. Whilst his character, Lewis Dinkum, provides the fire power for Owens in the final showdown, Dinkum plays a minor role, despite what The Last Stand‘s poster may suggest. Plus, Knoxville’s stupid brand of idiotic comedy only succeeds to amuse audiences when scripted dialogue that is intended to be comical fails completely.
Bearing this in mind, Schwarzenegger’s brand of violent justice against Cortez and his crew allows The Last Stand to be just passable – just. He may not have all of his charm, but its fair to say that Arnold Schwarzenegger is back.