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Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Ray Owens in “The Last Stand.” Photo by Merrick Morton
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Review: Arnold is older but still brings the thrills

“The Last Stand” may be what you would expect when it comes to the formulaic acting chops, but it still delivers the goods in terms of action-packed thrills and old-fashioned Schwarzenegger bravado. 

Alongside fellow veterans Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger has never failed in honoring his promise to satisfy the audience’s appetite for action films. Of course, that promise experienced a hiatus when he entered politics, and his fans had no choice but to play the waiting game.

When I heard Schwarzenegger was going to play the lead role in “The Last Stand,” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel excitement coursing through my veins. And that’s exactly the kind of exhilaration you’re going to get after waiting for so many years to see Arnold return to the big screen.

Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) has resigned himself to a life of cleaning up what little crime takes place in the border town of Sommerton Junction. He’s drawn to the small town after a bungled assignment working as an LAPD narcotics officer leaves him wracked with guilt.

But his peaceful lifestyle is interrupted when a notorious drug kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) escapes from an FBI prisoner convoy and takes off in a Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 with a hostage in tow.

Cortez is headed, as it turns out, straight for Sommerton Junction, where the U.S. law enforcement will have one last opportunity to intercept him before he disappears across the border. At first reluctant to participate, and then excluded due to the perceived incompetence of his deputies, Owens decides to take responsibility for the showdown.

I commend director Jee-woon Kim for creating a crowd-pleasing action film that is guaranteed to appeal to action junkies and Schwarzenegger fans far and wide. He handles the set pieces with fluid dexterity, whether it is Cortez’s escape from Las Vegas or the shootouts between Owens’ deputies and the henchmen or the car chase in the cornfields or the final brawl at the U.S.-Mexican border. Thankfully, the action sequences are executed with precise timing but aren’t jumbled by quick editing cuts.

For those who have seen Kim’s other work — “A Tale of Two Sisters,” “I Saw the Devil,” “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” — I am happy to report the director takes his time building up to the final face-off in Sommerton Junction, so that the audience gets the chance to know who’s who before the guns start blazing. While the story isn’t deep or intelligent, it does what it needs to in order to set the stage for the kind of over-the-top testosterone fun that we haven’t seen from Schwarzenegger in a long while. Characterizations are simple but functional, both for the good guys and the bad guys.

Arnold may no longer be in his prime, but as demonstrated here in “The Last Stand,” he is far from announcing his retirement. His aged appearance belies the juggernaut inside him, propelling him to do whatever it takes to stop the scum of the Earth from threatening his town. On a side note, the burly Austrian has not lost his knack for wielding whatever firearms he can get his hands on, not to mention delivering one-liners that hark back to the days of “The Terminator,” “Commando,” “Predator,” “Total Recall,” and “Terminator 2.”

Supporting Arnold in his efforts are Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, and Zach Gilford, all of who get their fair share of partaking in the shootouts and the quiet moments. The opposition consists of Eduardo Noriega and Peter Stormare, who provide just enough villainy to keep us invested in the anticipation of the upcoming face-off. In the middle are Forest Whitaker and Génesis Rodríguez as FBI agents, who are desperate for assistance but aren’t too keen on making use of Sommerton Junction’s small town force.

Anyone who appreciates action films and Schwarzenegger’s affinity for them should not miss out on “The Last Stand.”

If this is any indication of Arnold’s chances of keeping audiences entertained despite his age and absence from the big screen, I’d say he has a good shot at returning to form.