Film Review: THE LAST STAND (2013) – directed by Kim Jee-Woon

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Film Reviews
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THE LAST STAND (2013) - directed by Kim Jee-Woon

It’s a common misconception that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bad actor. His charisma is unparalleled. His enthusiasm is contagious. And his screen presence is electrifying. He also has an uncanny ability to be perfectly cast in virtually every motion picture he’s ever starred in giving him one of the most consistent track records in Hollywood history. If there’s ever been a lull in his career, it’s certainly not for lack of gusto on his part but rather for the poor picture itself. 

Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan. And while I admit that my nostalgic fondness for the man may have influenced my reception to his return to the big screen in a leading role, I can guarantee you that even non-fans will have to concede that THE LAST STAND is one hell of a movie.

Once again, Schwarzenegger is perfectly cast as a sheriff who’s showing his age and has seen a lifetime of carnage and pain. It’s a very apropos role for him to embody given the parallels between Sheriff Owens and his own real life vis a vis his career in action films and Governor of California.

It’s also the perfect vehicle to promote his return to film in as it pays homage to his legendary status as an action icon while painting a picture of the likely future of Schwarzenegger’s career – the aging father figure superhero who can still kick some ass, albeit on a smaller and more realistic scale.

The motley crew of cops under his command are a fun bunch of characters that we get to know and care about. And contrary to his billing and presence on the movie poster, Johnny Knoxville is thankfully used very sparingly in the film and as a result, his appearances are not nearly as unbearable as I thought they’d be.

I suppose my main critique of the film is that it lacks a truly over-the-top, ’80s-style villain. Gabriel Cortez is a promising enough character but we never get to spend a lot of time with him and as a result we have to learn through quick conversation among the FBI chasing him that he’s the notorious leader of some drug cartel or other. We do get some hands running through greasy, slicked back hair action courtesy of Burrell, one of Cortez’s main henchmen, which was a nice touch.

One of the main reasons why we don’t get fully developed villains is that perhaps we spend a little too much time with Schwarzenegger and company, which leads to my next point.

With all this talk about Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen, there’s another, equally important story that’s being neglected by the coverage the film’s been receiving and that’s the U.S. English-language filmmaking debut of South Korean sensation, Kim Jee-Woon.

The director behind I SAW THE DEVIL (2010), THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD (2008) and my own personal favorite, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003) does an absolutely phenomenal job here imbuing THE LAST STAND with his quirky, Coen Bros.-esque (complete with Harry Dean Stanton cameo) humor as well as showing his flare for staging several tense, edge-of-your-seat action set-pieces, namely the tremendous cornfield car chase scene as well as the climactic showdown on the bridge between Owens and Cortez.

With THE LAST STAND, Kim Jee-Woon proved he can still make the kind of film he’s known and loved for while working within the Hollywood system. And given the track record of foreign filmmakers making the leap from being a worshiped auteur in their homeland to being a nameless face with something to prove in America, that’s perhaps his biggest accomplishment of all.

 

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