Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his return to the big screen as a lead actor in The Last Stand, a lacklustre 2013 actioner that really has him showing his age. Directed by Kim Ji-woon, this picture fails to drum up any excitement or humour. It’s not a terrible experience, but there’s very little of interest to cling to throughout its 107 or so minutes.
The trouble with The Last Stand is in its lack of momentum and lack of commitment. There is not a single interesting or charismatic person to be found and the action sequences are uninventive and unexciting. The female characters are utterly unnecessary and a large swath of the picture is spent on procedural nonsense that has nothing to do with how the plot concludes.
Schwarzenegger stars as Sherriff Ray Owens. He works in the tiny border town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona. Ray’s world is thrust into the big time when a drug dealer named Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from prison with the help of his extensive gang. Cortez is moving for the Mexican border in a flashy sports car, which puts him right on course for Sommerton Junction.
The FBI is tracking Cortez, with Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) taking the lead. He tries to work with Ray, but the two butt heads for some reason. Ray assembles his officers, including Sarah (Jaimie Alexander), and moves into place to try to stop Cortez and Co. from getting to the border. To make matters worse, Cortez has had his gang building a bridge to Mexico.
Much of the picture is spent assembling various pieces for the final showdown. The scenes involving Bannister and the FBI amount to next to nothing, serving to only underline The Last Stand with a sense of proficiency and to give Ray and his crew a way to prove the grit and savvy of small town folks.
Perhaps it’s because of its projected audience or its featureless script, but most of The Last Stand feels like it’s sloshing through mud. Things develop with a kind of lethargy and even the more ferocious car chases pale in comparison to other genre flicks. There’s no titillation to speak of and the movie’s thrills are mostly confined to the final face-off between Arnold and the main baddie.
Movies like The Expendables have at least somewhat revitalized what has become a very drowsy genre, but The Last Stand lacks zeal and love for action. Its characters are reedy, the grit is non-existent and even the biggest explosions seem weak. The gun battle through the streets of Sommerton has the construction of a quality western but the execution of a lazy television series.
Noriega is an underwhelming villain, to say the least, and his passenger/cohort (Genesis Rodriguez) is a wasted opportunity if there ever was one. Any time the movie presents the opening for some form of passion, it erodes it with a shower of masculinity and insists that the boys have their way after all.
I kind of wish there was more to say about The Last Stand, but there isn’t. It’s a flat misfire, a lethargic action movie with very little gas in the tank. Schwarzenegger’s return isn’t a complete disaster, but it is the embodiment of underwhelming. That he’s gotten older is a given, but there’s little to excuse the fact that he’s so dry.