In his first starring role in a decade, the former governor of California plays Sheriff Ray Owens, the lovable law enforcer of Sommerton, Ariz., where nothing ever happens except a parade — that is, until the FBI starts to transfer Mexican cartel boss Cortez (the Benicio Del Toro-esque Eduardo Noriega of Blackthorn) from Las Vegas to death row.
Naturally, Cortez escapes and hightails it toward Sommerton, where Sheriff Owens doesn’t realize the crook’s posse has been building a bridge over a small canyon that separates the sleepy town from Mexico. Cross that bridge, and Cortez will be free! Freeeee!
That he won’t is a given, and The Last Stand‘s undoing is that it doesn’t do enough to distract us from the fact. By “enough,” I don’t mean gunfire and explosions — both exist in so excessive a supply that they overwhelm and cease to be anything but wallpaper. I mean everything else that separates a good action movie from straight-to-video dreck, especially interesting characters with whom you don’t mind spending a couple of hours.
Scripter Andrew Knauer seems to have confused “interesting” with “loud and obnoxious” — the two adjectives that describe Jackass Johnny Knoxville’s arms-happy sidekick character to a T. If he’s not supposed to be playing a mental illness, his director failed him. Then again, the director may not speak the language; he’s Kim Jee-woon, the South Korean madman behind the brilliant I Saw the Devil and the thought-provoking Doomsday Book. This quasi-Western marks his Hollywood debut; unfortunately, the result is less John Woo, more Ringo Lam.
I sense Knauer is more at fault, because the story is the kernel from which everything else pops. Look at most of Schwarzenegger’s work from the 1980s and you’ll see the difference: real, seasoned screenwriters. Among them were James Cameron, Oliver Stone, Walter Hill, John Milius and Steven de Souza. As of now, Knauer remains an unknown quantity.
He does give Schwarzenegger a would-be catchphrase in “I’m da sheriff.” It’s just highly unlikely Arnie will get a chance to use it again. Oh, well, there’s always The Expendables 3. —Rod Lott