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Schwarzenegger wreacks havoc once again in “The Last Stand”

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

As Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said in “Terminator,” “I’ll be back”.

Well, after almost a decade away from the movie screens, the 1980s action hero is back, having officially made his full return (not including his minor roles in the “Expendable” films) to his acting career with his role in “The Last Stand.”

The Austrian Oak plays the lead role of Ray Owens, a former Los Angeles Police Department narcotics officer who settles down in the small town of Sommerton Junction following a botched police operation on his behalf..

Owens becomes the sheriff of Sommerton Junction, seemingly a perfect small rural town for a man seeking a quiet change of scenery.  The town is apparently void of any major crime, that is until wanted drug lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) breaks free of an FBI prison transfer in Las Vegas, and makes a dash for the Mexican border. The only thing standing in his way is Owens and his band of green officers.

If that sounds cliché, well it is. Don’t expect to see anything original in “The Last Stand’s” story, but do expect to see Schwarzenegger carry the movie through till the end with some help from the small supporting cast. The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn in “The Last Stand” with little left for the imagination other than the awesome actions scenes, which Schwarzenegger is renowned for.

Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen is a much-welcomed nostalgic experience for action movies of 2013, especially after his cameo roles in the two “Expendables” films, which were released in 2010 and 2012, respectively. This time, the former governor of California is teamed up with director Jee-woon Kim, who has directed horror flicks such as “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “I Saw The Devil.”

Both have received positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but Kim has only directed a few action movies among his short roster of mostly horror movies.

That prompts the question: Do his unique directive quirks translate into a good action movie?

The answer is 100 percent yes. Though now grey between the ears, Schwarzenegger still commands a strong presence that’s felt in “The Last Stand.” Some of the lines in the movie make a few wise cracks about “The Running Man’s” age, but he proves that he can still kick a few skulls in at age 65.

Kim’s directing and cinematography of “The Last Stand” is done with professionalism and expertise, drawing a great deal from his past horror movie experiences for the lighting effects found in this picture. Although the contrast can be a bit heavy at times it’s still an excellently shot film and aesthetically stylish.

Schwarzenegger doesn’t completely carry the whole film. Forest Whitaker as Agent John Bannister has a notable performance, but he spends most of the movie on the sidelines and not in the way of the main star or the action itself.

“The Last Stand’s” supporting gang of Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzman), and Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford) provide marginal comic relief from the action, managing to sneak in a few laughs. The comic nature of the auxiliary cast echoed the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The humorous demise of some of the film’s more expendable characters, most notably a scene in the build-up to the vengeful finale of the film, can take away from the overall spectacle. It’s an out-of-place tone shift that disrupts the movie’s credibility slightly, but luckily the final showdown takes away any lingering doubts about the dubious scene.

Through his direction, Kim has made an action film that’s notable of the way it’s shot and lit, somewhat neglecting the story itself in exchange for aesthetics. The characters in the film often lack depth or originality beyond the endless one-liners and comic uses.

Some of the back-stories in “The Last Stand” are only glossed over and shoved out of the way to make way for the film’s action scenes. The plot certainly leaves a lot to be desired; the film is however saved by Schwarzenegger’s charisma and sentimental appeal. It’s a movie that doesn’t take the clichéd story too seriously, instead relying on its action with some typically well-worked action routines and set pieces.

“The Last Stand” is just enough to get the old adrenaline gland going again for 2013, as Schwarzenegger is already suiting up for roles in “Captive” and “The Tomb” coming out later this year. It’s good to see Arnold out of politics and back to his rightful place on the big screen.

Although the film doesn’t offer anything new to the action genre, it’s a wonderful nostalgic experience to see Schwarzenegger back, wreaking havoc and destroying everything in sight.

Paul Bagnall can be contacted at pbagnall@student.umass.edu.

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