Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Last Stand

Grab All Available Weapons

The action heroes of the 80s and 90s are back, coming out of retirement to show the world that they still have a thing or two especially when the Hollywood action genre still hasn't really found proper successors to the likes of Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger and probably every notable actor on the Expendables list. Coming together for Expendables was a treat, but individual egos meant each of the listed trio required their own film to flex their muscles in. Stallone went with Bullet to the Head, Willis returned with yet another Die Hard, and Schwarzenegger gave up his Governor role for that of a small town sheriff in The Last Stand.

Directed by Korean Kim Jee-woon, who did the genre blending The Good, The Bad and The Weird, Kim continued with that mix-mash of genres, combining the good ol' Hollywood action genre with that of a Western, complete with small town saloon, gunfights along Main Street, and having the sheriff and his deputies defending their town and way of life against a band of outlaws armed to the teeth with military grade weapons and training. The plot is kept extremely simple and linear, with a Mexican cartel head Gabriel Cortez (Eduwardo Noriega) breaking out of FBI custody, and making a run fit in a prototype sports car to provide for token car chases across to the Mexican border, with only the town of Sommerton Junction standing in his way.

Schwarzenegger headlines the production despite having the likes of credible character actors like Forest Whitaker in the mix, relegated to looking mean and bad-ass, and responsible for very poor escort of a high valued prisoner in Las Vegas. As the sheriff Ray Owens, Schwarzenegger does what he did best decades ago, spouting one liners to mixed reactions, and showing off his tough guy demeanour with that sensitive heart, being an ex big time cop having to walk away from adventure and excitement because he had seen too much blood being shed. With a team of three deputies in Jerry (Zach Gilford), Sarah (Jaimie Alexander) and Figgy (Luis Guzman), things hardly happen in their sleepy old town, until Gabriel and his cartel decided to use it as a transit for their escape.

Curiously though, Johnny Knoxville also got top billing locally, but only had yet another small role to play as a weapons aficionado, which in the trailers, would have shown his responsibility in providing the big guns to match their opponents' firepower. And also as comic fodder. The rest of the supporting cast are largely relative unknowns, allowing attention to be stuck to Schwarzenegger, with few surprises brought to the table, from build up, to scene after scene of full on action greatness.

More disconcerting would be the need for graphic violence in just about every action film in recent months, this one included. I'm no prude or squeamish toward such scenes where bodies get pumped with lead, heads get blown open, bodies dismembered upon explosions and the likes, but too much of such scenes has somehow numbed my attitude towards them. Gone are the days of suggestion, and the new norm seem to require such scenes in the pretext of realism, but I suspect it's because audiences have been sensitized that cultivated the need for more. One can be wrong though.

Still, amongst the three films from the holy trinity of 80-90s action movies, The Last Stand stood tall amongst the competition, relishing in its successful fusion of genres and being a lot of irreverent fun, with cliches galore, and having everything done loud, complete with one dimensional villains whom you'll love to hate. Hollywood doesn't make action films like it used to, and now it took someone else to show them how to again. Recommended!

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