Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Last Stand

Year: 2013
Director: KimJi-Woon
Screenplay:  Andrew Knauer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzengger, Peter Stomare, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Luis Guzman, Zach Gilford, Jaimie Alexander

Synopsis is here

The parley box office reception of The Last Stand speaks volumes to someone like myself. TheExpendables' opening box office was almost the same amount as the entire budget of this feature ($34 million). Meanwhile; Arnie's return feature limped home to a sickly 9th place standing and $6.3 million take. Since then, Arnie's big feature has made more money and will probably when it reaches the small screen, if not before then. However, the fact that Arnies big comeback has struggled to find an audience doesn't surprise me. To have Schwarzengger, Stallone and Willis in a film together was the wet dream come true for many of a certain age. It was easy to see the draw. Arnold alone, however, is a different story.

Before heading to office as Governor of California, Arnie's audience was already on the wane with a string of weak entries before heading back to the Terminator well (2003's Rise of the Machines) to prop himself up again. Now, with his political terms over and cinema audiences moving on while he was away (even before), it's hard not to see Arnold struggling a little. Throw in the fact that The Last Stand is the directional début of an acclaimed Korean director (translation: A nobody to Joe Six Films) and things get hazier. 

Now would be the time to be bold. To hit back with a film that would show people what they're missing. Kim Ji-Woon had already turned heads with the likes of I Saw the Devil and A Tale of Two Sisters, so perhaps his U.S début (in itself riffing on the western genre) should make a splash by kicking ass and taking names.Unfortunately, this is not so and we are welcomed instead by a nuts and bolt action flick which does little to step out of the box. The Last Stand isn't a bad film for what it is, it clearly gets a small kick out of playing around inthe b-movie sandbox. However, it's so unremarkable that it's a little upsetting. This is standard direct to video fare hits the marks that you'd expect and says little else otherwise. All objectivity aside, I expected a lot more. 

The Last Stand struggles to find the right tone to carry the premise. Its humour is hampered by its clunky script and dialogue, while it's performances do little to steady the boat. No one goes to a Schwarzenegger movie for Shakespeare or Hemingway, but I'm sure a few go for at least a couple of decent zingers. The same goes for the performances, which are not top drawer (again not expected) but almost feel as if they've been ripped from three different places. I'm not sure about yourselves, but I'd be a little nervous if one felt Johnny Knoxville is hitting the mark here (note: The posters lie about the amount of his involvement).

Kim Ji-woon directs The Last Stand with competently, but also with a certain complacency to proceedings. The film lacks the boldness and style that came with the director's other features. The stunts and action lands heavily enough, but nothing veers out of the comfort zone. Possibly due to Arnie just not being Arnie anymore. Looking less like the Austrian Oak of yesteryear,Schwarzengger has less of the presence that hid his stiff acting. The film compensates for some of the more physical aspects; however, there seems to be something missing in translation between director and actor. 

That said, there's nothing within the screenplay that pushes either star or director. Even the idea of Schwarzengger as a retired city cop cum small time sheriff seems protracted. The town of Sommertown neatly suits Schwarzengger's Republican leanings. It's a place in which even the elders have a gun in case of "trespassers", while the entire plot is all about retaining order by stopping exotic drug dealers. Once again, not a problem, just a bit typical. 

I don't expect The Last Stand to put off any of the lingering Arnie fans who bothered to give this a swirl. I just can't see many of them saying too much about it afterwards.