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The Last Stand (2013)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/21/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/3/2013
Hollywood loves a comeback. (At least, that's what they always say. Given the backstabbing and jealousy in the industry, I would venture to guess that most don't want to see a past star return.) We've seen actors return to the screen following illness, addiction, or just a general fall in their popularity -- the obstacles overcome vary in their severity. But, how many performers have come back to entertainment after being elected to the highest office in their state? After years of dominating the box office as an action star, in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the governor of California, serving for 8 years. He's now returned to movies. Following a small role in The Expendables 2, Arnold takes top billing again in The Last Stand.
As The Last Stand opens, U.S. government law enforcement officials are performing a prison transfer for Mexican drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) in Las Vegas. Cortez's devoted henchmen help him to escape from the convoy. Taking a prisoner, Agent Richards (Genesis Rodriguez), Cortez hops into a stolen Corvette ZR1 -- a high tech concept car which is capable of amazing speed -- and starts for the Mexcian border. Cortez has experience as a race car driver, so handling the powerful vehicle is not a problem.
Meanwhile, the sleepy town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona is celebrating the local team's big game and most of the residents have made the journey to the event, leaving the town almost deserted. Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) enjoys the peace and quiet. This tranquility is shattered when a group of thugs, lead by Burrell (Peter Stormare) come to town brandishing a lot of firepower. Owens soon learns that Cortez is headed for Sommerton Junction and that Burrell's men are constructing a way for him to get into Mexico. Owens must put together a rag-tag team of deputies and volunteers to help stop Cortez.
If you follow box office business, then you know that Arnold's big comeback was a bust, as The Last Stand opened in 10th place (!), while Mama made nearly five times more money. A few weeks later, Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head opened in 6th place and actually made even less money. Two weeks later, A Good Day to Die Hard opened at number one, which sounds like a good thing, but it would turn out to be the lowest grossing film in the Die Hard. For many, the takeaway from all of this is that there will be no comeback for 80s-style action movies or the long-in-the-tooth stars of those films. That's a pity for two reasons: 1) I grew up in the 80s and have a certain fondness for those films (Die Hard is in my all-time Top 10), and 2) this kind of thinking will keep people from checking out The Last Stand, which is actually a pretty good movie.
Don't get me wrong, The Last Stand isn't art and it isn't groundbreaking, but it is the kind of solid, "let's blow stuff up" kind of action movie which once ruled Hollywood and has now become a rarity. The thing which makes The Last Stand work is that someone behind the scenes really put some thought into this movie and made some smart choices. They realized that the 66-year old Schwarzenegger is no longer Superman and that audiences wouldn't buy it if he were portrayed in that fashion. This is an old man who loves working in a small town and enjoys the peace and quiet. When his town is threatened, he doesn't go nuts and kill everybody 80s Arnold style, but instead he leans on those around him.
Which leads us to the second reason why the film works. Whether by plan or by happenstance, Arnold is surrounding by a great cast and he's not asked to carry the movie, which was probably wise as he's been out of the game for so long. Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander, and Rodrigo Santoro form the group who help Arnold fight the bad guys and they all bring something to the mix. Knoxville actually tones things down a bit from his usual hyperkinetic persona and, as usual, Luis Guzman is in his own movie, and it's a funny one. The main villains, Peter Stormare and Eduardo Noriega, help to bring a menacing edge to the piece.
The tone of the movie works as well. Director Jee-woon Kim (who doesn't speak English) has made some painfully slow movies in his native South Korea, such as A Tale of Two Sisters andI Saw the Devil, so I wasn't sure how he would handle the action scenes. But, he does a fine job, from the over-the-top escape in Vegas to the up-close-and-personal shootouts in the small town. The action here is sometimes bloody, but Kim restrains himself and doesn't get brutal as he has in his other movies. The Last Stand also has a generous dose of humor, and there are some laugh-out-loud moments.
Playing like an odd mixture of The Cannonball Run and any given Western, The Last Stand shows that well-made, fun action movies can still exist, even if there doesn't seem to be a place for them in the modern age. Sure, the movie is hokey and you'll roll your eyes a lot, but the movie is never dull and there are a few surprises. There are some plot holes, and with any movie of this nature, the dialogue is often painful. Arnold may not ever regain his dominance of the silver screen, but that's OK -- we have fond memories of his old movies and The Last Stand is a nice way to spend an evening today.
The Last Stand contained too many shots of Eduardo Noriega driving a car and not enough of him walking around according to my wife on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, note the red Camaro, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good here, although it allows us to see every line in Arnold's face. The depth is good, particularly in the third act, when we can see down Main Street. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is the kind of track we expect from an action film. The stereo effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. We are aware of sounds coming from the left and right sides of the screen. The surround sound effects are very good and in the battle scenes, we can pick out individual sounds. The subwoofer effects resonate with each gunshot and explosion, adding to the experience.
The Last Stand Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Not in My Town: Making The Last Stand" (28 minutes) plays like a fairly standard "making of" featurette, but it jumps around a lot. There is an immense amount of on-set footage, rehearsal footage, and interviews with the cast and filmmakers. The piece examines the actors and characters, Director Jee-woon Kim's style, and the stunts and fights. From there, the piece examines the making of some of the film's key scenes. "Cornfield Chaos: Scene Breakdown" (11 minutes) takes us on-set to see the detailed approach in making the final car-chase scene. In "The Dinkum Firearm & Historic Weaponry Museum Tour" (11 minutes), we see how production design and detailed prop work went into creating the cache of weapons. "Actor-Cam Anarchy: With Johnny Knoxville and Jaimie Alexander" (11 minutes) are behind-the-scene video diaries where the two actors give us a separate looks at their days at work. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. The bulk of this is taken up by a scene which runs over 3 minutes. One scene would have given us a little more background on a character, but it would have slowed the film as well. Another scene was clearly cut for being too cheesy. We also get seven EXTENDED SCENES which run about 14 minutes. As implied, these are longer versions of scenes from the finished film, and we can see how they were cut for time.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.