LOVE MAKES A FINAL STAND
The Last Stand
(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