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The Last Stand
(2013)

Arnie's comeback, and he's looking really old. The passing years gave the likes of Chuck Heston and Clint Eastwood added gravitas. But Arnie still has trouble delivering a mouthful of sentences, and his bulk now looks more like borderline flab than muscle. Which may explain why he has such trouble moving convincingly.

He's still enough of a presence that it’s a surprise when it takes so long to best Eduard Noriega in a mano-a-mano contest. But the references to his age seem borrowed from much better movies and stars (at one point he dons a pair of spectacles). Casting the Austrian Oak as a small-town sheriff must be one of the more incongruous roles he's taken (he even gets a ripe line to cover his unlikely presence, "You make us immigrants look bad"), but no one seems wholly comfortable with this cartoonish High Noon riff.

The script is neither funny nor clever enough to justify the far-fetched plot (cartel boss Noriega, busted from prison, drives a superfast car superfast to his destination, Arnie's sleepy Arizona border town, where his accomplices are building a bridge to Mexico). You wonder why Arnie picked this as his big return, but then you remember he starred in a decade of lacklustre movies before switching to governating.

Kim Jee-Woon stages an occasionally impressive piece of CGI blood-augmented action (it doesn’t looks remotely real), but his visuals are generally subdued. There’s a climactic knife fight that becomes suitably OTT, but he never succeeds in investing you in the proceedings. It’s more a case of carrying through your curiosity about how a 65 year-old action-Arnie fares. Jee-Woon also employs a rather ugly green/orange colour palate, washing the movie with a cheap sheen. Sometimes a leftfield choice like Jee-Woon pays off for a movie of this ilk, but here the results are an uncomfortable mish-mash of ill-fitting elements.

Forest Whitaker picks up his cheque as the FBI guy in pursuit of Noriega. This plot thread is highly generic (well, so is the whole thing), aside from the bizarre presence of aforementioned superfast car. Whitaker learns to grudgingly respect Arnie, of course, but the character beats are too unvarnished to make such a familiar scenario work (“He hung up on me again” is perhaps the movie’s best line).

Arnie's assortment of comedy sidekicks adds to the pervading straight-to-video vibe, like Tremors without the giant worms (or quality script, cast and confident tone). Luis Guzman does his stoned mumbling thing again, Jamie Alexander plays the girl deputy, and Johnny Knoxville acts the hyperactive arse (surprise!) I failed to notice Predator's Sonny Landham. Peter Stormare trots out his stock villain, which is reasonably entertaining. But the best moment involves Mrs. Salazar.

The Last Stand crashed and burned at the box office, and its east to see why. It looked cheapy and hacky in the trailers, which reflects the finished movie. It was cheap, but not cheap enough that it recovered its costs (even Arnie’s previously reliable international fan base stayed away). And this isn’t a great Arnie role; it doesn’t help that he no longer seems to have the vitality that previously excused his shortcomings as an actor.  Where this puts his career reboot is unclear; he’ll need to find a successful solo vehicle soon, or permanent retirement may beckon.

**1/2

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