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The Last Stand
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Sheriff Owens, who once worked in the Narcotics division of a big city police force, but is now content to keep the tiny town of Somerton Junction safe from petty criminals. His peaceful town is about to become the scene of a major showdown between the forces of law and order and the minions of Gabriel Cortez, a cartel boss who’s been broken out of FBI custody and is making a run for the safety of Mexico. And who exactly, will be representing the law against Cortez’s gang of trained killers? Why Sheriff Owens and the three officers of his police force.
Like Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Arnie’s age shows in this movie. Sure, he still manages to run around and kick ass and shoot bad guys, but there’s a creakiness built into the character of Sheriff Owens that both shows his age and mocks the idea that it affects him. Old or not, Owens still knows best what to do out of all the people in his department, and they trust his judgment and choices.
The gun battles start out being one-sided, with the cartel thugs having the superior firepower and the know-how to use it. That changes when Sheriff Owens enlists weapon museum owner and gun enthusiast Lewis Dinkum, played by Johnny Knoxville, as a deputy. With his firepower behind them, the police of Somerton Junction can at least compete with the cartel in terms of weapons. This is an action movie, so applying deep logical thinking to anything going on is just a recipe for a headache and less enjoyment of the movie.
Less believable is Cortez’s supercar, a souped up version of the already powerful Corvette ZR1 stolen from a car show. This guy looks like a villain more suitable for the Transporter than this movie, and his abilities as a driver are explained by having him be a part-time pro racecar driver on the South American circuit under a pseudonym. While he’s a drug kingpin, and certainly a bad guy, there’s no real style to him other than rich drug lord. All his escapes are managed by his minions, and there’s no real tension as to whether he’ll get through, because we know he’s got an appointment with Arnie in Somerton Junction somewhere towards the end of the movie.
There’s some pretty funny stuff in this film, starting with Deputy Jerry giving himself a nosebleed from the recoil of Dinkum’s Really Big Handgun (named Henrietta), to the reactions of the townsfolk in the diner to Sheriff Owen’s order to evacuate the town: “But we just ordered breakfast” one says, while another doesn’t see how the cartel thugs could present a danger to someone with high cholesterol who just ordered a three egg cheddar omelet with extra cheese. “At least stay away from the windows,” Owens tells them, having no real time to argue with them about things.
While Johnny Knoxville does a good job playing the gun enthusiast finally getting his shot at helping out the cops and pulls at least one ridiculous stunt, it’s Luis Guzman who gets the funniest lines and scenes, which I won’t spoil by repeating here. He manages to keep his character believable (for an action film anyway) and down-to-earth sensible and still funny.
The showdown in the middle of town before Cortez shows up is well done and while there are a few surprises that take place during that encounter, the wrestling match/fist fight between Sheriff Owens and Cortez on the bridge to Mexico is something we’ve all seen before at the end of action movies, though there’s a point where Owens slams Cortez down on the edge of the steel bridge and I swear you should hear his spine crack. The end of this movie is never in doubt, it’s the journey there that’s all the fun.