In his first leading role in 10 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger (unfortunately) is back in “The Last Stand.”
And thank the celluloid gods, because after an exceptional year in cinemas that saw box office records fall and smart films like “Lincoln,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Life of Pi” universally recognized for their brilliance, Hollywood needs Arnie’s brand of acting accompanied by this kind of nonsensical, gun-happy, bullet-riddled, vacuous script to snap it right back to pre-2012 expectations.
Schwarzenegger is Sheriff Ray Owens, the warm and friendly top lawman in the sleepy Arizona border town of Sommerton Junction. When we first meet Ray, he’s sauntering through the streets of Sommerton at the end of what appears to be a pep rally for the local high school football team. Ray enters the diner and greets everybody by name, but his spidey senses tingle when he spots two strangers dining in a booth.
After a casual conversation with the men during, which they don’t seem to be at all suspicious, Ray decides the two men are suspicious and abruptly leaves to write down the license plate number of their 18-wheeler.
Cut to Las Vegas, where Forest Whitaker’s unbelievably inept FBI agent — John Bannister — is overseeing the transfer of the most notorious, dangerous drug lord in the world, Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega).
Following Bannister’s lecture to a large group of agents about how dangerous Cortez is, the prisoner gets away in a “daring” escape from a transfer convoy, hops into a waiting modified Corvette ZR1 — which is sure to give auto enthusiasts a cargasm — and heads straight for Sommerton Junction. Along for the ride is a “hostage,” an FBI agent named Ellen (Genesis Rodriguez). Let’s just say Ellen’s character is the epitome of how unapologetically dumb this movie is.
Johnny Knoxville as the town gun enthusiast and deputy wanna-be provides several cheap laughs, as does the semi-reliable Luis Guzman, who plays a real deputy. For anyone blessed with vision, Jaime Alexander, also a deputy, is easy on the eyes and, as she has shown in some of her other work (“Loosies,” “Nurse Jackie”) has the acting chops that will eventually propel her to stardom.
Schwarzenegger has never been a good actor but at his best, he didn’t need to be. However, he’s no longer at his best, and you’re not going to become a better actor by not acting for 10 years. Although to be fair, mixed in with the bullets, bloodletting and generally bad acting, “The Last Stand” isn’t bereft of entertaining moments. No doubt the film will please anyone who doesn’t give a lick about plausibility, quality writing, acting, action icons embarrassing themselves and gratuitous gun violence in a post-Newtown world. But that’s not going to fly here.
One-and-a-half out of five stars.