Everybody loves Arnold—even if you don’t like the man, you love the movies in which he partakes. “The Last Stand” is the much-wanted return of Mr. Schwarzenegger to a leading role, front-and-center, and no one could be happier than yours truly and those with whom I regularly associate.
The great thing about a film like “The Last Stand” is the simplicity of it all. Action comedies can suffer from thinking too hard, or they can try to take on too much at one time. Not here.
This flick opens with a legendary Mexican drug boss, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), escaping from the hands of the authorities, led by FBI Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), while being transferred to his execution.
Cortez was set to be put to death in Las Vegas, so he makes a run south-bound toward the Mexican border. One problem: The last thing between he and his homeland is Somerton, Arizona’s finest, Sheriff Ray Owens, or one Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Director Jee-woon Kin (“The Good, the Bad, the Weird”) and writer Andrew Knauer keep it simple yet impactful, basic but earnest.
When Ray is asked questions about why he’s so committed to the cause, or why he doesn’t just look the other way while one of the most dangerous men on earth is about to use any means necessary to go right through Somerton, Ray replies, “I’m the sheriff” and “This is my home.” Like I said, impactful and earnest.
This doesn’t come easily, however, because Somerton’s police force is—to put it mildly—a tad shorthanded. They’ve only got two deputies, Mike and Sarah (Luis Guzman and Jaimie Alexander), so Ray deputizes two locals, Frank and Lewis (Rodrigo Santoro and Johnny Knoxville).
Frank’s a former Marine that’s spending the weekend in the Somerton jail for drunken disorderly; therefore, he fits the bill for keeping the drug kingpin in the US of A. Lewis offers something a little different, however; he gives them access to his gun museum, where the crew gets all kinds of fun toys. And in true Knoxville fashion, as Lewis, he’s the wild card of the bunch—as well as the funniest.
Cortez is making his run for Mexico inside a souped-up Corvette, one with north of 1,000 horsepower, so even his journey to Somerton excites. The stunt driving puts “Jack Reacher” to shame, because whereas “Reacher” was flying around Pittsburgh in and out of alleys and amidst an urban environment, the stunts in “The Last Stand” occur in the middle of the desert, on two-lane roads, where there’s absolutely no room for error.
Furthermore, there’s some school-bus driving that amazes, as well as a car chase through a corn field that’s awe-inspiring.
But you know where all of this is going: Arnold versus Cortez. I won’t spoil the details, yet you can imagine who wins. The showdown begins by Ray looking at Cortez and saying “You give immigrants a bad name;” it’s probably the best line and sequence in the movie.
At the end FBI Agent John Bannister looks at the sheriff and states, “I underestimated you.” I certainly didn’t, nor should any of you, for Arnold’s back. And “The Last Stand” proves it.