“THE LAST STAND” Movie Review

By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

He’s not back quite yet.

We don’t expect acting from Arnold Schwarzengger. We want to see a man with the determination of The Terminator. We certainly do not want to see him as a successful, highly-paid executive with a beautiful wife, children and a maid.

With a terrific script, Hollywood made an action star out of Liam Neeson.

Arnold may be a brilliant businessman, but he has a lousy team that brought him a lazy script and a Korean director who cannot direct American actors. Director Kim Jee-woon can stage and film violent deaths.

Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is Sheriff in Sommerton, a small Arizona town on the U.S.-Mexico border. Nothing happens in Sommerton. Yet the sheriff has three deputies who stand around doing nothing: Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzman), Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) and Jerry Bailey (Zach Gilford). Jerry complains to Owens that his big day was getting a cat down from a tree. He asks Owens, who was a narcotics detective in L.A., to help him get a job on the police force there.

The scenes in Sommerton are jokey, poorly staged and lack charm. We know it’s the sleepy set-up for the big confrontation to come but why do it in the same tired-old way? Imdb.com lists the writing credits this way: screenplay by Andrew Knauer and Jeffrey Nachmanoff; rewrite and writing supervisor George Nolfi. None of these gentlemen could figure out how to make Sommerton and its residents interesting?

How is this for introducing a character? Deputy Sarah’s boyfriend Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) is a drunk and is spending the weekend “drying out” in a cell.

Hasn’t anyone in Hollywood seen Santoro in “HELENO”? Santoro is one of Brazil’s biggest stars. He was absolutely fantastic in “HELENO.” With a strong sexual presence and fearlessness, Santoro goes from a seductive, sexually dynamic world-class athlete to a syphilis-ridden man shrunk to 85 lbs.

Why is Santoro being wasted in Hollywood with small roles like this?*

The actors are awkward and Johnny Knoxville, as a weird meth-head in a wild getup, nearly kills the movie with his exaggerated acting. Why does Knoxville continue to take these embarrassing roles? I wish someone would give this man a decent role. Alexander Payne gave Matthew Lillard a real career in films when he cast him in “THE DESCENDANTS.” And Lillard profusely thanked Payne in every interview he did. In fact, Lillard warned Payne he would ruin his film if Payne cast him. (He did a great job and did not kill the film.)

Luis Guzman is in every movie. He averages five to six movies a year. Maybe more. He’s one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood. So why is he getting fatter and fatter? In “THE LAST STAND” he was clumsy and had trouble walking due to his weight.

Well, the big day of something about to happen in Sommerton arrives. The prelude comes when Burell (Peter Stormare) and his henchmen come into Sommerton with their big rig. A farmer refuses to let them stay for a while on his land – how un-neighborly of him! – so Burrell takes a shotgun to him.

FBI Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) calls Owens and tells him Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most dangerous druglord in the world, has escaped and may be headed for Mexico by way of Sommerton.

Every time there is a prison breakout, a wild car chase, or a bomb going off in Paris, I start calculating how much it cost in real life. Cortez’s escape from the FBI borders on the fantastical. Yes, it is outlandish but fun to watch. Moving Cortez from one area to another, a plane lowers a huge magnet over the van he is being held in and picks it right up. It goes even wilder from there as Cortez is finally in the seat of a super-powered luxury sports car – the fastest car in the world.

In the real world, Cortez’s escape could have cost $10 million.

I always wonder when a team of hitmen with machine guns are running around and several get killed, why do the others continue? They are just one-time paid freelancers. Why not just sneak away when you see all the other gunmen being picked off. Do gunmen get a bonus if they kill the bad guy’s foe? Did the guy who actually killed bin Laden get a promotion?

If any actor brings any spark to their roles here – Eduardo Noriega is an alluring Cortez and holds the interest of the viewer – it is to their credit not Jee-woon’s ability. Since no one actually “directs” Schwarzengger, I would theorize that Jee-woon just left the actors alone. It shows.

*Thank God Santoro is re-creating his fantastic role as Xerxes in “300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE.”

Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.

If you would like to be included on Victoria’s private distribution list for a weekly preview, just email her at masauu@aol.com. Victoria lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at masauu@aol.com.

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