After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in the sleepy border town of Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez' path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever. At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
There comes a time in every man's career when it's simply time to stop. Sadly for my inner 12-year-old, that time has come for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Judging by the facts, there's no reason 'The Last Stand' should fail – but it does. First off, there's the story. As portrayed in the trailers and adverts, the plot is deliciously enticing: the spoiled son of a Mexican drug cartel leader has escaped U.S. federal custody and is on the run back to his homeland for auxilio, or relief. To avoid the Feds, he's taking a little two-lane highway towards a small bordertown. The only thing between him and freedom is a small town along the highway that seemingly poses no threat – only this convict has completely underestimated the strength and will of the Law that lies ahead.
Solid idea for an action movie, right? It sounds like a modern twist on a western, which is never a bad thing. The title "The Last Stand" couldn't be any more fitting because the small town is the last place of American defense – not unlike the battle in the final 45 minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan.' If our heroes cannot stop this powerful force, then evil wins.
Mind you, this isn't the most original of ideas, but it's a solid one, which is why it's still appealing. Although echoing ideas from countless other tales, there's definitely potential for entertainment here; however, the description of the plot is the slightest fraction of what the movie is actually made of.
The trailers gave me the impression that the escaped cartel baddie was part of a convoy headed towards Sheriff Schwarzenegger's town, which is why a few small town cops would be the ultimate underdogs against a gang of cartel members. My idea is better than the one used in the movie. There's no convoy, just a single 1,000-plus-horse-power car. This vehicle isn't being backed up by truckloads of henchmen armed to the teeth with automatic weapons and RPGs - like I expected/wanted. It's traveling solo, so five deputies have the task of stopping a single car from getting down main street of their tiny town. Five cops against one bad guy? That seems too easy. Sure, there are a dozen other henchmen that pop up along the way, but nothing grand like you would expect from this synopsis and the trailers.
Next, there's Arnold – possibly the biggest and most iconic action star of all time. You might be expecting me to complain about him being an aged action star, but that's not the problem at all. Schwarzenegger was never like the action stars as we know them today. He was never the speedy and intuitive type like Jason Bourne and the most recent renditions of James Bond. He was a weapon-wielding bad ass. The intimidation of his muscle mass and sheer strength was just as fearsome as the shotguns, chain guns, machine guns and RPGs that he leveled people with. Because he never had to rely on fast-moving spry action, his age is irrelevant when it comes to our expectations of him. You don't have to be young in order to blow away your enemies with awesome weapons.
Where Schwarzenegger fails in 'The Last Stand' is in his ability to pull of what he used to - the acting that goes with the action. He's rusty. He's no longer intimidating, his demeanor isn't something to fear, his commands don't make you tremble. Schwarzenegger was never strong in the ways of acting, but here it feels like we're watching an old actor trying to act for the first time. It's great to see him trying to return to his former career and genre, but it's bittersweet because he simply isn't capable of doing what made him famous in the first place - being a bad ass.
I'm ignorant to public popularity and familiarity with Korean director Kim Jee-Woon, but I absolutely love him. South Korea has pumped out quite a few fantastic filmmakers over the last decade; Jee-Woon is easily my favorite. 'The Good, The Bad and The Weird' is not only my favorite Korean flick, but it ranks amongst my favorite westerns of all time. In my opinion, if Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (of 'Hot Fuzz' and 'Shaun of the Dead' glory) were ever to make a western, it would be just like 'The Good, The Bad and The Weird.'
With Kim Jee-Woon at the helm of 'The Last Stand,' I expected it to be a fun and over-the-top action movie with impeccable comedic timing and some of the most refreshingly creative and unique action sequences. While there are certainly a few technical sequences that excited me due to the stylized coolness that I had just witnessed, for the most part, the direction is quite bland. Very little of what you see feels unlike everything else. The action, the stunts, the shootouts – they're mostly familiar. There's a major lack of filmmaking excitement, a lack of noteworthy moments that stand out from the others. The potential is there, but never realized.
2013 has been a rough year for action films – especially those starring the "older" action stars. Out of the various action flops, 'The Last Stand' is the one that had the most going for it – the story, the filmmaking, and the star power – but all three fail simultaneously. This isn't the worst action movie that I've seen, but it's certainly not the most creative.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate has given 'The Last Stand' a combo pack release that includes a Region A BD-50 and codes for both iTunes and Ultraviolet digital copies. The blue elite keepcase is housed in a cardboard slipcase whose cover dons a matte background, a glossy Arnold and an embossed title. Upon inserting the disc into your player, you're forced to watch FBI warnings and a Lionsgate vanity reel prior to trailers for 'Now You See Me,' 'The Expendables 2,' 'Dredd,' 'Snitch' and a commercial for Epix.
'The Last Stand' storms Blu-ray with a fantastic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that expands the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio to 2.40:1.
Shot digitally, 'The Last Stand' carries a pristine look that's strikingly clear and sharp. The texture of Arnold's weathered and leathery face is tangible. As henchmen heads are popped like cherries with Schwarzenegger's shotgun blasts, highly detailed, chunky red clouds of mist fill the air. The tiniest individual dust particles can be seen in beams of a flashlights in the pitch blackness. The film's palette is fairly typical of a western – oranges, browns, and earth tones – but via the bloody shootouts and the Las Vegas opening scenes, we see plenty of vibrant colors. Black levels are extremely deep, covering the dark desert nights like a blanket that hides whatever evil doesn't want to be seen.
While the decision to use digital cameras has lead to great clarity, it also makes the film carry the look of a television series. The extra three-dimensional look of film cinema is gone. Being a personal preference, this won't affect my grade of the video quality, but I believe 'The Last Stand' could have benefited from a nice dusting of film grain.
There aren't any flaws bogging down the video quality, but 'The Last Stand' lacks the extra oomph that would qualify it as a 5-star, reference quality Blu-ray.
Following Lionsgate's trend, 'The Last Stand' has been given an impressive 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that makes use of all channels for the majority of the movie.
The score is consistently mixed dynamically. It doesn't let up throughout the entire film, using each of the speakers individually to collectively fill the air. The score may be generic, but the mixing of it most definitely is not.
From large to small, effects are used in perfect fashion. On the small side, growing up in the desert, I can vouch for the accuracy of the insect sounds that fill the air. They sound lifelike and surround the area. On the large side, imaging vehicles are a brilliant. Revving cars hauling on- and off-screen. Helicopters whizzing in and out of the frame. Flawless imaging is executed many times.
Gunshots carry a loud and bassy punch that's fitting to the weapon. Levels are well-synced with the distance of the action from the camera. The levels are also played with in regards to the vocal tracks. The volume of voices is toyed appropriately with the distance from the camera. For example, in once scene, Johnny Knoxville slowly walks closer to the camera and, while doing so, his voice gradually becomes louder too. The vocals are mixed in the same fashion of the cars and choppers – they smoothly shift from channel to channel with the movements of the character speaking.
While this 7.1 track is very impressive, it also carries a few lulls during the first (mostly) action-less hour of the film. But aside from all that downtime, 'The Last Stand''s audio is just as impressive as the video.
I wanted to love 'The Last Stand.' I really did. I sat down expecting a campy, over-the-top, so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasure; unfortunately, that's not what it delivers. Instead, we get a dry and familiar script that's peppered with action moments that lack creativity or originality. There are a few occasions where 'The Land Stand' excels, but not enough to hold the rest of the movie up. The video and audio qualities are damn near perfect. The special features aren't spectacular, but more abundant than you might expect. But despite it all, as strong as the disc may be, the movie itself doesn't give this release two legs to stand on. If you're still tempted to check it out – like I was – then give it a rent first. I'd hate for you to buy it and only realize afterward what an unsatisfying film it is.