The Last Stand (2013) The Western Revisited

The Last Stand Movie Poster

Despite the poor reviews that this film has garnered, I could not wait to see it. I wanted to see it in the cinema, but due to low viewing figures, by the time I could see it, it’s run in the theatres had finished.

This film felt like a reworking of two “classic” westerns. High Noon and Rio Bravo. Borrowing from the High Noon script of the bad guys (or guy) who  are coming in on the train (or via the road in a super duper corvette) and I/we need to stop him works well for the continuation of the story. Then it borrows from the Rio Bravo bit of the sheriff trying to get himself sorted out to defeat the baddies and having the help of his deputies, new and old and a bit of help from at least three citizens from the town.

But maybe I am wrong about my allegations of film similarities, but, it certainly felt that those touches were in there, albeit much more modern that the settings of the previous films. There were no horses, jangling spurs or Duke Wayne or even Gary Cooper. Ahnold will never be mistaken for either of these two cinematic western heroes, he doesn’t even wear a stetson, but he does a pretty good job.

Kim Jee-Woon does a brilliant job on his first US feature. He shows that the brilliance that he’s shown in his South Korean films aren’t just something he is capable of in his native country. This man is talented and gifted no matter where he directs.

I’ve guessed that part of the “mixed” reviews this film got was more because Arnold Schwarzenegger was the lead (and maybe Johnny Knoxville had a part to play in the negative viewpoints as well) more than anything else. I think that no matter what film that Arnie had chosen would have gotten him mixed reviews.

Jee-Woon has shown that he can direct films written by  folks than himself and he’s done well with this modern day western.

The film has a good cast, despite the fact that Ahnold is making his “comeback” in the film, it has enough other talent to take that sting in the tail out. I will hold my hand up and admit that I still like the ex “Governator’s” films. I like him less as a person since reading his autobiography (which I talked about in an earlier post) but I do still like him on the big (or in this case, smaller) screen.

But back to the cast.

How can you not like Peter Stormare as the big bad guy’s number one “bad-guy” helper;  Jaimie Alexander as one of the deputies; Forest Whitaker as the head FBI guy; and the legend that is Harry Dean Stanton as the grumpy, and possibly homicidal, farmer in a brilliant cameo. (A cameo that is miles too short)

Harry Dean Stanton

The plot, despite the holes that do occasionally make an appearance, is pretty straightforward. Ex cop from the big bad city of  Los Angeles  has set himself up as the sheriff of a small one horse town near the Mexican/Arizona border. Drug cartel super villain escapes from FBI custody and heads straight for the border. The villain blows any opposition away by using a lot of muscle hired by a lot of drug money.

The villain is making a bee-line for the small town and its tiny police force.

I’m not going to make a lot of observations about the holes, existent or not, or about whether this whole thing is unrealistic or not. If you want realism in your cops and robbers stories watch the nightly news, not a movie. If you cannot take off your disbelief hat at the door, why the hell do you watch movies anyway?

The biggest obstacle you have to get over is why would the citizens of this small, pokey, out in the middle of nowhere town hire a sheriff whose command of the English language keeps him from using the correct syntax when he speaks. Once you get past that one, the rest is easy.

As a debut film for the genius that is Kim Jee-Woon it’s good. He’s proven that he can deliver an entertaining American Hollywood film. One that has humour, pathos, a smidgen of death, shoot-outs, and car chases. The body count isn’t that high (under…say…20?) and only the fact that this was Schwarzenegger’s come-back vehicle kept it from doing better in the cinemas; in my honest opinion.

This is a cracking film. I enjoyed the hell  out of it and I’ve watched it about three times since it came in the post today. My mood is quite up in the area of films at the moment with two western films in my collection of such recent vintage, (In case you’ve forgotten the other western is Django Unchained – see previous post.) it gives me hope that the genre might be making a comeback.

Only I hope it’s better received than Arnold’s comeback.

5 out of 5 stars, cause it’s a Kim Jee-Woon film, man!

Kim Jee-woon
Kim Jee-woon