A crafty cartel boss (Noriega) busts out of FBI custody and heads for the Mexican border. Theres only one man that can thwart his plan to cross over near the town of Sommerton: its pencil-pushing sheriff (Schwarzenegger).
And… he’s back. With The Last Stand, precisely one decade on from his last star vehicle (Terminator 3), Arnold Schwarzenegger is finally reset to Action Man mode. But with less swagger than you might expect. Rather than being triumphantly Arnie-centric, large swathes of the movie are entirely Governor-free, as diabolical Mexican gangster Martinez (Eduardo Noriega) runs rings around Forest Whitaker and his FBI manhunters. Even in the border town of Sommerton, where Martinez is heading in a ludicrously zippy Corvette ZR1, Schwarzenegger is just one cog in a sprawling ensemble that includes Luis Guzmán as deputy ‘Figgy’, Johnny Knoxville as samurai-helmeted gun-nut ‘Dinkum’ (the movie’s Radagast, and less annoying than promo materials threatened), and Harry Dean Stanton as an ornery farmer.
It’s corny, lowbrow fun — High Noon rebooted in Hasta-La-VistaVision. But the first hour’s toggling between the villain’s Fast Five-ish vehicular machinations and events in Sommerton only highlights the yawniness of the latter. For a long time, Schwarzenegger’s stiff-necked sheriff Ray Owens saunters around saying things like, “Should be a quiet weekend,” and putting on reading glasses to signify that he’s old (in case you miss this, he also has the line, “I’m old”). The star, always most natural when thrust into unnatural scenarios, is creaky in these prosaic scenes. And it doesn’t help that he’s interacting with characters thinner than Taylor Swift: a war-veteran boozer in need of redemption, a tenderfoot deputy, a perky diner waitress.
The main draw at this point is Peter Stormare, who provides much-needed pepper and some of his most diabolical beard-work to date, as a merc up to no good in Sommerton. But his barmy grandstanding aside, there’s little evidence that the man behind the lens is Korean director Jee-woon Kim, whose back catalogue crackles with dark wit. Then, finally, The Last Stand bursts into a final stretch of jubilantly chaotic, cartoonishly violent edge-of-the-border disorder, and everyone seems to wake up. There’s a tool-up sequence that sees Guzmán wielding a sword. Kim flings the camera about with the feverish abandon he brought to The Good, The Bad And The Weird. And several kills are "ouch!"-inducingly harsh, including an Arnie roof-dive that results in a henchman demise worthy of Commando. So, while the big man’s return to the big screen may lack the impact of a car through a police-station wall, it’s a serviceable start.
Arnies toe-dip back into the action-cinema pool is a daft bit of fluff rather than a bruising mission statement. Get through the plot and youll be rewarded with 30 minutes of whirligig mayhem.