The Last Stand
Directed by Kim Ji-Woon
Mitt, where ya at? Starring an Austro-American former bodybuilder (Ahnald) and directed by a South Korean sort-of-auteur (Kim) who traffics primarily in gory pastiche, this self-deportation parable dramatizes the politics of immigration as, of course, a Western. Incarcerated cartel boss and amateur race car driver Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of prison when the FBI (led by a relentlessly pissy Forrest Whittaker) tries to move him from maximum-security lockdown to death row; he tears off for the border with a sexy hostage (Genesis Rodriguez), riding shotgun in his sound barrier-shattering sports car. The plan: repatriate to his native Mexico by way of the quiet and dusty Somerton, Ariz. (population: Harry Dean Stanton), which boasts a police force of three hapless deputies and one ex-Governator as sheriff. A small army of anonymous, automatic weapon-wielding goons descends upon Somerton to facilitate Cortez’s return to the country in which he is a legal citizen—but, soliciting the assistance of a local goof/vintage-arms collector (Johnny Knoxville), the sheriff, with a barely fleshed-out L.A. past as some kind of rock-star narcotics agent, isn’t about to let that shit happen.
By treating the contemporary American-Mexican border as analogous to the Wild West, The Last Stand is a muscular feat of action filmmaking more John McCain than John Ford. Schwarzenegger sluggishly swaggers and blasts his way from one absurdly bloody shootout to another with all the GOP gusto of John Wayne in his prime. But the movie is spiritually and stylistically closest to the unholy alliance of allusive film dorkiness and splatter fetishism on display in Django Unchained, not the film that its political content suggests it probably should have reworked—High Noon. “You make us immigrants look bad,” Schwarzenegger chides his nemesis at one point. Playing a character named Ray Owens and apparently of Germanic extraction, the Duke 2.0 proves a tidy figuration of the confusion about what, if anything, The Last Stand wants to say amid all the sound, fury and emptied clips.
Opens January 18