The Last Stand

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Evan Wil­liams

Na­tional re­lease

(M) ★★★★ Lim­ited re­lease

S(MA15+) ★★★✩✩ INCE it is never easy for re­view­ers to pass com­fort­ably from the sub­lime to the ridicu­lous in the space of a sin­gle ar­ti­cle, I’m tack­ling this week’s films in re­verse or­der of merit, giv­ing first men­tion to the ridicu­lous. And I’ll be brief. The Last Stand is Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger’s long-awaited re­turn to the ac­tion genre af­ter his years in pol­i­tics and his first star­ring role since Ter­mi­na­tor 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003 (apart from a cameo in The Ex­pend­ables 2 last year). Arnie plays Ray Owens, the sher­iff of Somerton Junc­tion, Ari­zona. Not many peo­ple live in Somerton Junc­tion, but the folks here­abouts sure have plenty of guns and know how to use them. Arnie’s favourite is a Vick­ers sub-ma­chine­gun, a World War II sou­venir that he keeps for use in emer­gen­cies.

It’s not well known that while Arnie was sup­posed to be gov­ern­ing Cal­i­for­nia, he was ac­tu­ally work­ing for the LAPD nar­cotics squad and left un­der a cloud af­ter a bun­gled op­er­a­tion re­sulted in the death of a col­league. This would ac­count for his gen­er­ally mourn­ful ap­pear­ance in The Last Stand. Old bud­dies in Somerton scarcely know him: ‘‘ I al­most didn’t recog­nise you in plain clothes,’’ says one. And I al­most didn’t recog­nise him in those heavy shades, with cropped hair, ex­tra wrin­kles and deep lay­ers of tan. But the voice is un­mis­tak­able. When Arnie talks about tyre trucks we know he means tyre tracks, and when he protests in a fi­nal scene, ‘‘ My ar­mour is not for sale,’’ we know his hon­our is safe. Pity any Mex­i­can drug lord who tries to bribe him.

The Last Stand is the work of South Korean di­rec­tor Kim Ji-woon, with a screen­play by An­drew Knauer, and it looks like a par­ody of ev­ery vi­o­lent Hol­ly­wood ac­tion thriller. I’d had my fill of in­dis­crim­i­nate gun­fights in The Sweeney and Django Un­chained, but The Last Stand com­fort­ably out­does all com­pe­ti­tion, in­clud­ing many of the films for which Arnie is re­mem­bered. It’s a tired old plot — our drug lord, Gabriel Cortez (Ed­uardo Nor­iega), is sprung from a death-row prison in Las Ve­gas and Arnie has to stop him es­cap­ing across the Mex­i­can bor­der. No easy task when Cortez is driv­ing a souped-up Chevro­let Corvette and has an army of thugs at his dis­posal, led by his chief hench­man (Peter Stor­mare). The scenes of high­way may­hem were done bet­ter by Ge­orge Miller in Mad Max and the cli­mac­tic show­down be­tween vil­lain and sher­iff was done bet­ter in High Noon. Await­ing the fi­nal shootout, Arnie in­tones: ‘‘ I’ve seen enough blood and death — I know what’s coming.’’ So does the au­di­ence. THIS brings me to Michael Haneke’s Amour, win­ner of last year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes and much else be­sides. Amour is a great film, quite

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