The Last Stand is Schwarzenegger’s first film for a few years, returning now that his political career is over, and I wish he’d stayed in politics. There’s a great cast, script and film here but Schwarzenegger’s presence is a cartoonish distraction.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is really distracting. With a torso shaped like the front of a Mini and leathery skin stretched too-tightly across his frame, the overall effect is that of an old, overstuffed armchair that’s come to life after wishing upon a star. Never a man known for his acting ability anyway, he can now only flick back and forth between two states, ‘neutral’ and ‘boggle-eyed crazy’, his ship’s-figurehead of a face unable to express anything more complex. I couldn’t stop remembering that I was watching Arnold Schwarzenegger; whenever he was on screen I was thinking “Woah, the Cuprinol Man is looking pretty weathered these days”.
There was a time when being conscious of Schwarzenegger’s presence was actually what you wanted from a Schwarzenegger film, but that time has passed and The Last Stand isn’t a good fit for him to try and bring it back. He’s still got the muscle but he can barely move, and his wise-cracking delivery is off to the point of embarrassment. Fortunately the supporting cast is much stronger, with Luis Guzmán, Forest Whitaker, Peter Stormare, Harry Dean Stanton, Jaimie Alexander and Johnny Knoxville all giving solid, pulpy performances to match the trashy B-movie vibe. The main antagonist is a preening non-entity, sadly. I can’t even be bothered to look up who the actor was, and it’s barely relevant anyway.
The film itself is a lot of fun with tasting notes of Tremors, Smokey and the Bandit and Assault on Precinct 13, though with its fast cars and high-tech escape sequences this is a far more polished affair than all of those. The action is at times brilliantly over-the-top and there are plenty of laughs scattered throughout as well.
The Last Stand deserved better than being Schwarzenegger’s career-re-launch vehicle and someone more plausible in the role of small-town sheriff — Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Forster, Jeff Bridges maybe — would have made the film feel a lot more complete. If you can get over this hulking, bronzed buffoon, there’s an enjoyable piece here.