The Last Stand (2013)

laststand

Johnny Knoxville’s face in the above picture perfectly captures my feelings towards the climax of this movie. Exuberant happiness.

Kim Jee-Woon’s The Last Stand is one of the most enjoyable high octane action movies I’ve ever seen. The scope is gigantic. Most directors would falter in an attempt to create an action sequence with the same breadth as the one depicted at the end of this movie, but Kim succeeds in spades. This is done by allowing giving the audience a good feel for the geography of the town where the action is set, and excellent pacing of the action itself. The sequence goes on for quite a while, but intermediate slowdowns and interactions between the characters ensure that it never gets stale or overdone. This is how you do an action movie.

It really is too bad that the first thirty to forty minutes of the film are so lackluster. It seems that the screenwriter started with the idea for a final showdown, where a small town sheriff and his misfit band of deputies make a last stand against an army of cartel men using massive weaponry and countless rounds of ammunition, and worked backwards. The film is too obsessed with making this scenario believable and gets bogged down in introductory scenes of the FBI losing track of their fugitive and failing to recapture him. The small sheriff’s department the film follows is populated with likable characters and charismatic actors, and the film would have done better to spend more time with them at the beginning.

But when the action scenes get going, it really gets going. A sixty-five year old Arnold Schwarzenegger still looks natural in gun fights and his Austrian accent remains as charming as ever. Johnny Knoxville provides the comedic relief of the film and Kim uses him sparingly but effectively. The titular last stand is one of true excitement, and the fact that you already like all these characters when it happens makes it all the more interesting.

Beyond that there’s not much else to say about the film, which is in a way a bit disappointing, considering Kim Jee-woon’s penchant for making great action movies with interesting storylines and themes. All we get are some loose themes about honor and local values serving the country better than beuracratic bullshit. A better script would have done wonders to elevate this into the upper echelon of action films. Still, this is a great, fun, exciting film that is sure to leave you breathless by the end.

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