Arnold Schwarzenegger is “back,” if you want to call it that, though he never quite went away – there were two Expendables movies, cameos in things like Tom Arnold’s The Kid & I, and various appearances in documentaries as governor of California. The only sense in which The Last Stand truly marks a return is to his name being the top one above the movie’s title on the poster – the lead in anything but a politically themed documentary.
I thought about doing a more review-style write-up; maybe having two Flick Picks today. Ultimately, though, it occurred that you probably have very specific questions about the Austrian-American icon’s please-call-it-a-comeback, and answering them directly might be more informative and fun than letting you pick through an essay for the scraps.
Let us begin…
Is this the Schwarzenegger we know and love?
Yes. Except, obviously, he’s older, so he won’t be picking up phone booths a la Commando, but rather, suggesting that he is perhaps too aged for this fecal matter. Plus he seems to have the farmer tan thing going for real – his neck is red and leathery. At times, he once again feels like an oversized grade-school kid pretending to be an adult action hero, gratuitously swaggering while adorably mangling the language.
Though in fairness, compared to Peter Stormare’s awful attempt at tawkin’ Texan, Arnold is Patrick Stewart.
Does he have yet another ridiculously all-American name like “Johnny Matrix” or “Ben Richards”?
Yes. “Ray Owens.”
So he’s supposed to be a small-town guy, with no hint of a foreign background?
You think so – especially when Forest Whitaker, having only spoken to the phone, refers to him as a “piss-ant country sheriff” (Schwarzenegger doesn’t sound like “country” anything, and never will) – then he eventually busts out an immigration joke when it’s convenient.
Does he say the line?
He actually says, “I’ll be right back,” which makes him one of a select group of folks to utter those words onscreen and survive. His best line, though, comes after Johnny Knoxville has once again described a gun and/or a vehicle with a woman’s name, and Arnold blurts out, “Do you have stupid names for all your shit?”
What’s good about the movie?
Mainly the last third, in which Arnold, Luis Guzman, Sif from the Thor movie, 300‘s King Xerxes and Knoxville trash a small town while taking out the bad guys. It’s also the kind of movie in which you know a guy is a former Marine because he has “Semper fi” tattooed on his forearm in huge letters.
What’s not so good?
Half the movie doesn’t even have Arnold in it at all. It’s like they wanted to ease him back into acting gradually, and surrounded him with pros.
Really? So what’s in the other half?
You know that scene in most action movies where a dangerous prisoner is being transferred, and he makes a surprising getaway, setting up the film’s villain (Gabriel Cortez here) and putting his evil plot in motion? That takes up the entire other half, and it’s all generic FBI stuff with Forest Whitaker in Las Vegas. If I were Whitaker, I’d be pissed that Knoxville, who’s barely in the film, gets second billing, while the acclaimed actor who gets the most screen time isn’t even in many of the trailers.
To what do you attribute this bizarre choice?
To Korean director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil). It’s paced like an Asian crime drama rather than an American action movie. If it weren’t for the fact that most people are paying to see an Arnold movie, that probably wouldn’t be an issue.
So it’s not really an Arnold action movie?
It is by the end, but it takes its sweet time.
Aren’t you just mad that you didn’t get to do the tank ride with Arnold?
It’s true that a select group of L.A.-area movie bloggers got to ride in a tank with Arnold, and I wasn’t one. Am I taking it out on the movie that I didn’t get to go? You’d have a better case if Forest Whitaker were driving the tank, because it’s his parts of the movie that lost me. Everyone has their biases, but I don’t think that did it for me.
Are you being hard on Arnold because you don’t like his politics?
No. Pretty much everyone I know, right and left, thinks he wasn’t a very good governor. Most of us are happy he’s back doing movies instead.
So what are your biases when it comes to Arnold?
I love his ’80s output, from the genuine greats (Conan, Terminator) to the awful-yet-awesome (Commando, Raw Deal). Less keen on his late ’90s/early aughts stuff like Eraser, Collateral Damage and End of Days. This one is better than those.
Has his acting improved?
From Expendables 2, yes. And he’s hilarious yelling out profanities, which happens a lot.
Anything else we should know?
Harry Dean Stanton pops up for a bit. He’s becoming Hollywood’s go-to for crazy old guys now.
What grade would you give the movie?
A for Arnold’s stuff, C for the rest. Averages to a B. Seeing it with an audience is fun, but seeing it on a DVD where you can skip to the good parts might not be a bad plan.