The Last Stand is noteworthy for a few things. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first return to the big screen as leading man action star after his stint as the Governator of California. It indicates that elder Arnold can crank out action flicks as easily as he ever did as the Terminator. It also gives us a view of Arnold as Dirty Harry–the potential to play more characters who are grizzled, end-of-the-game, tired, but still wiser for it all, and not ready to let anyone ignore the fact that he is still the toughest guy in town.
Is The Last Stand any good? It depends on your angle and your expectations. Arnold is the only thing that makes the film worth watching. Johnny Knoxville replays the unlikely deputy sheriff sidekick character from the Walking Tall remake, yet far dumber and crazier, neither in any good way here. Forest Whitaker has his worst role to date, as a bumbling fed who loses the biggest drug kingpin this side of the Mississippi (Eduardo Noriega) and never can quite figure out how to stop kicking himself for it (a guy this good should be selecting far better roles). The always evil badman Peter Stormare (Fargo, Mercury Rising, Armageddon, Minority Report, Constantine, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Monk, Leverage, Psych) delivers a solid performance as henchman for the kingpin, and if he were the actual kingpin the movie might have played better.
The plot of The Last Stand actually stands up, albeit barely, following a classic Western formula. Arnold is a washed-up, near retirement sheriff in a small U.S. town that borders Mexico. The kingpin has plenty of resources who have put the final touches on a makeshift bridge across a canyon that should allow the kingpin and his 100 miles per hour plus car, zip and cross the border carefree. Stormare’s badman screws it all up by killing a local farmer on land he needs for the bridge, setting in motion myriad events that Arnold’s sheriff is convinced can’t be a coincidence in this town where nothing happens. The problem is the script doesn’t play as good as it could. Where the story needs action there is far too much drama about the locals. Where cops are dropping like flies the good guy supporting cast still find time for flat-joke one-liners and clichéd cowboys and Indian scenes.
If you’re after a Friday night quick streaming flick to kick back and soak up, or just a Schwarzenegger completest, you’ll probably be happy with this one. Arnold has plenty of one-liners, some good, some bad. You’ll lose track of all the guns, many big guns, bullets flying, blood spilt, and stacks of bodies.
The Last Stand is streaming now on various services and cable networks, and available on DVD and Blu-ray.