The Last Stand is a weird combination of several different action genres. On the one hand you have a “serious” action film. By which I mean a film that takes itself seriously. There is a serious bad guy, a Mexican cartel boss who is intent on escaping federal custody and he doesn’t care how many people he has to kill to do it. On the other there is an odd kind of cross between Dad’s Army and Hot Fuzz. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the “too old for this shit” sheriff of a backwater town in the second variety and is surrounded by gormless, bungling but ultimately likeable characters straight out of a straight up comedy like Super Troopers or Hot Fuzz.
Of course these two different worlds are set on a collision course by some kind of MacGuffin with dramatic and/or hilarious results. And that’s where the film really falls down. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of problems with this movie but you can gloss over the plot holes and dodgy dialogue in an action movie. The big problem here is that when the two worlds finally do collide they never really mesh together but form an uncomfortable stand-off between comedy and gritty violence. Arnie’s character moves reasonably effortlessly between the two and Peter Stormare as the main henchman does a good job switching from gritty to comedy as he gets more and more crazy as his goons are killed off by the country bumpkins. The rest of the time it feels almost like watching two different films projected on the same screen.
The plot (there will be spoilers here but with a ridiculous action film like this does that really matter?) revolves around a drug cartel boss who escapes custody using a whacking great magnet, a really fast car and a temporary bridge to Mexico. Oh and a ****-load of goons with guns who don’t mind murdering cops, feds and innocent townsfolk in their hundreds. Naturally the only place to put the bridge is on the other side of Arnie’s town and the only way to get to the bridge is through said town. So, after the bad guy has evaded, bought off or killed all his FBI perusers it is of course left up to the old Sheriff and townsfolk to stop this murderous psychopath with whatever they can find lying around.
Fortunately we are now in comedy action movie world so what they can find lying around is really quite a lot. One of the hillbillies runs a gun “museum” which just happens to contain hundreds of working guns and thousands of rounds of ammo. Also the whole town is conveniently on a roadtrip to see a football game leaving our heroes free to steal their cars to erect makeshift roadblocks. So when the bad guys arrive in the sleepy town the sheriff has a posse armed with pistols, rifles, shotguns, a flare gun and a 1939 Vickers machine-gun called Vicky.
And by the time the big boss man turns up there are no henchmen left to help him get to the border. Arnie now has a 4 to 1 numbers advantage so here is obviously the time where he ditches his posse and chases the bad guy to the border on his own for the obligatory old vs new school showdown fight.
The fighting and shooting bits, which lets face it is really why you’re watching this movie anyway, are pretty well done. There is lots of variety and plenty of shiny guns and pretty explosions to look at. The physical fighting is less common but is also well done, especially the climactic fight at the end.
There’s also a lot of driving in this film. The main bad guy spends most of the movie racing across America in a really fast car. A “specially modified” Corvette ZR1 in fact. Unfortunately, most of the shots establishing the driving skills of the characters consist of a close up of yanking the gear shift/a close up of a foot stamping on the gas/the actors dramatically pushing their heads back into the seats accompanied by a loud engine noise track. Given that for about the middle 50-60% of the film the main bad guy is travelling in this way it gets pretty dull pretty quickly.
Overall I enjoyed this movie it was fun and funny, dramatic in parts and had loads of pretty explosions. But it is really let down by ridiculous stunts, a bizarre plot and the nagging feeling that the two parts of the story just don’t fit together.