The Last Stand (2013)
3/10 Old Guns
Well, boys and girls, even the great ones take a mulligan.
The Last Stand is about a Mexican drug lord/bonafide speed demon who gets captured by the FBI and is on his way to the courthouse, shackled and escorted in an armored car. But thanks to his friends in low places, he escapes from the Feds en route and heads off to the border in a hyper-charged Corvette. Despite their best efforts, the Feds are continually foiled as they try to stop him. It seems that all hope is lost, that their man’s gonna get away and make a fool of the FBI. But standing in the way of his freedom is the border town of Sommerton Junction, home to an Austrian immigrant-turned-badass cop-turned-small town sheriff and his ragtag group of bumbling deputies. Being a town of upstanding folk who don’t take too kindly to trigger-happy cronies, they gather up their resources and try to stop this damn fool from getting away.
On any other day, I gladly would have avoided this one and continued my life, free of regret. It’s High Noon starring The Terminator and Johnny Knoxville, and that was all the convincing I needed. The truth is that as much as I can appreciate everything that makes Commando so magical, I haven’t exactly yearned for those glory days to return. It was the ’80s, and I think that says it all. Then again, it was only a matter of time before Ahnuld left office, so let’s not kid ourselves because we knew this day would come.
But the thing about Ahnuld is that this sad, sad Verdict isn’t his fault. Sure, he has absolutely no place in a story like this, but I get why he’s here. Where there are guns and one-liners, there will always be a place for Ahnuld. This is his bread and butter. Now if only he’d been paired with those dudes who did Crank, maybe things would have gone better.
Speaking of not belonging, The Last Stand is directed by a man named Kim Jee-Woon. If the name’s not ringing any bells, quit your job, clear your schedule and start getting familiar. For a country that’s been mass-producing some phenomenal young film makers as of late, I can only hope that Kim Jee-Woon is regarded as a goddamn national treasure in South Korea. I’ve only had the pleasure of watching two of his movies, but whenever someone’s asked me for a Netflix Instant recommendation in the past two years, The Good, The Bad, The Weird and I Saw the Devil have been my go-to’s without fail. As much as I love me some Luis Guzman, Kim Jee-Woon is the sole reason I gave this a chance.
That’s because – in my humblest of opinions, mind you – Kim Jee-Woon is the best damn “action director” out there right now. Can’t blame the producers who wanted him to helm something like this and props to them for knowing a great thing when they see it. The problem therefore lies in why he would want to be part of something like this, something that’s so clearly beneath him.
This is Kim Jee-Woon we’re talking about, the exceptionally talented and outrageously entertaining writer/director who in just two movies made a stronger impression on me than any other director in recent memory, save of course Jeff Nichols. This is like going from Head Chef at Chez Quis to thinking outside the bun at your friendly neighborhood Taco Bell. This, dear readers, is Bizarro World.
The upside of the situation is that when it’s time to start cooking with gas, Kim Jee-Woon provides. Whether it’s a high-speed chase through a corn field or a convoy of Escalades filled with (surprise!) heavily-armed gunmen, it certainly has its moments. Unfortunately, those moments are all-too brief, they’re gratuitous as all hell and are constantly broken up by lengthy scenes that couldn’t be more uninteresting. In short, they pale in comparison to what Kim Jee-Woon is capable of.
But it’s not really his fault either, as there was only so much he could do with the material provided. Because the more I think about it, the more I just can’t deal with this sloppy-ass script.
Take the role of Federal Agent John Bannister. Bannister is played by one Forest Whitaker, and judging by the way this movie’s been marketed, one would believe that his role would be a mere afterthought to the screen time that Ahnuld and his Gatling gun are afforded. Lo and behold, such is not the case. Instead of staying put in Sommerton where things are halfway decent, a good 50% of the movie is spent in Whitaker’s action-less command center where his efforts behind a desk are foiled time and time again. No idea why that is, no idea why screenwriter Andrew Knauer decided to move away from Ahnuld to give us this sorry excuse for a police procedural that no one even wanted or asked for.
Nor do I have any clue as to why Knauer takes this so seriously so often. I’m all for taking things with a grain of salt, but it’s not often that I wish the screenwriter had. Definitely not the comeback that his leading man was hoping for, definitely not the international breakthrough for the director here either.
Nevertheless, Ahnuld is fine and he’s the only one who can at least do something with the shitty dialogue he’s provided. Johnny Knoxville continues to annoy, not sure why Harry Dean Stanton bothered with this, but again, it’s always nice to see Luis Guzman gets some work.
Before I wrap this up, allow me to reiterate: I can go for some quality, mindless action just as much as the next guy. I can’t freakin’ wait for Machete Kills to arrive and I swear on the beard of Chuck Norris that I’m not writing this from the perspective of a movie snob. But even with expectations as low as they were, I’m surprisingly bummed by how much I didn’t enjoy this. It didn’t even have the decency to be laughably bad, and that’s just insult to injury.
Speaking of which, I probably could have handled the structure and substance being a total-effing-catastrophe, if only one of my favorite directors hadn’t been involved. As you’ve likely gathered, I wasn’t hoping for greatness from The Last Stand, I was just hoping for some fun. But alas, such is the audacity of hope.
Pretty sure that’s what Obama was talking about.