He’s back. And his acting isn’t any better. Not that Arnold Schwarzenegger ever took his relationship with Hollywood that seriously: the former Mr Universe, body builder and more recently politician has publically acknowledged that, with his thick accent and bulked up body, he was really little more than a comic action hero in a world of pure entertainment. The Last Stand continues the tradition, a mindless shoot-out and car chase story with a few moments of cool grace.
Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a sleepy town on the American side of the Mexican border. It’s the kind of place where a big week for the law enforcement team is a parking violation and the rescue of a kitten. So when evil drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of FBI custody and makes a dash for freedom in a souped-up Corvette, Owens has to rally his dopey collection of deputies and stop him from getting through. To complicate matters, Cortez has kidnapped beautiful FBI agent Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriquez), and has an army of highly trained killers clearing all obstacles ahead of him. FBI leader John Bannister (Forrest Whitaker) spends most of the film shaking his head at Cortez’s clever antics and trying to work out which lawmen are taking bribes to help the bad guys.
Schwarzenegger creaks through the role, grunting his trademark one-liners mechanically, and milking a few moments of goofy humour from the banal script. South Korean director Kim Ji-Woon (who made the excellent spaghetti-western tribute The Good The Bad, The Weird), lifts proceedings with some spectacular car chase and shoot out sequences, in particular the dramatic escape of Cortez from custody in the city. Once out on the open road however, the drama becomes more linear – a simple case of the irresistible force of a shiny corvette meeting the immovable object of Arnie. It’s good, old fashioned, dumb fun. May the best beefcake win.