“The Last Stand” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it’s tempting to begin with “He’s baaaaccckkk!” However, the Guvernator is only a shadow of his former self, physically and cinematically, and this lame vehicle of a movie doesn’t bode well for his continuing to be the stud that a studio can depend upon to bring the box office money with him. Instead, it calls to mind the sorry spectacle of an aging boxer who tries to climb back in the ring well after his punch has lost its wallop.
This one wants to be a sort of semi-comic homage to “High Noon,” with Ahnuld in the Gary Cooper role of the beleaguered sheriff defending his little Western town from a menace he knows to be approaching. Hopelessly outgunned, the old lawman has to turn to a motley group of townsfolk to fend off the bad guys, which they miraculously do, leading to a classic, climactic mano a mano facedown in which the sheriff prevails. (Hope I didn’t spoil the plot for you, although it’s not like you wouldn’t figure out the ending after the first, oh, 10 minutes.)
Korean director Jee-woon Kim and screenwriter Andrew Knauer attempt to update the formula by making the enemy a drug cartel boss who has a sideline in racing cars. As he is being transported from jail in Las Vegas, his henchmen free him from the clutches of the FBI. Their gambit involves a giant electromagnet, a zip line, and several dozen men running around the city in orange jumpers. The head agent, John Bannister, is played by Forest Whitaker, who looks like he wants to be somewhere else and is phoning this one in.
The drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) gets a souped-up Corvette whose 1000 h.p. lets him cruise along at 200 m.p.h. He makes for the Mexican border, specifically the little town of Sommerton Junction, where still more henchmen are building him a bridge across a canyon. Since no one ever watches the Mexican line, their massive activity goes unnoticed until two deputies come across it more or less accidentally.
After a series of highly unlikely failures to stop the fleeing felon, Arnold’s left to stop him with a couple of fulltime lawmen and two emergency deputies—a drunk and the wacko proprietor of an out of the way gun museum. The ordinance thus brought into play on both sides includes a grenade launcher, a 1939 Vickers machine gun, all manner of rifles and shotguns, and, of course, an outsized pistol. Guess who wins.
“The Last Stand” had the bad fortunate to be released soon after the Newtown shootings: it inadvertently serves to remind us how messed up we are in our love affair with weaponry. It’s rated “R” for “strong bloody violence throughout” and language. The filmmakers try to lighten up the proceedings with some low comedy and the odd joke, often a Western cliché. Sadly, it goes over like the proverbial lead balloon. Skip this one.