‘The Last Stand’ is exactly what action movies from the decade of the 80’s felt like – fun escapism that put a smile on your face. So far, this is the most fun movie from the first 3 weeks of January and from the looks of it, only Sly Stallone’s ‘Bullet to the Head’ might equal it in entertainment value anytime soon.
The premise goes like this: the leader of a drug cartel (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of a courthouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his inexperienced staff (Luis Guzman).
Amongst all the buzz of Arnold Schwarzenegger coming “back” to movies in a lead role, I can’t ignore how 40% of the lead cast is Latino. It’s a treat when I go see a mainstream Hollywood film and see this many Latino actors getting major face time.
Let me begin with Luis Guzman. He has to be close to breaking the record with the most amount of film appearances ever. The man is ubiquitous and seems like every action or comedy film can use the services of someone like Guzman. He’s a solid character actor that derives laughs just on his physical presence and the delivery of comical dialogue tailored to him. Then we have Genesis Rodriguez who feels she’s like a movie or two away before she hits star status. In my opinion, she’ll succeed Jennifer Lopez as the next Latina mainstream star. She has the looks, the comic timing, the charm and most importantly, the ‘It’ factor, in other words, the magic. Rodrigo Santoro is a veteran actor with versatility. He travails from drama to comedy to now action. There’s not much he can’t do. He also looks like he jacked up for this film only making him more attractive to casting directors. Then you have Eduardo Noriega who is one of Spain’s most respected actors. If you get the chance, catch him in ‘El Lobo,’ Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and Alejandro Amenábar’s ‘Tesis’ and you’ll see why Noriega is the real deal.
One note not to be ignored are the Latino roles. A criticism I’ve usually had has been Latino actors usually cast as criminals, thugs, maids, etc. But apart from Noriega playing the cartel boss, Guzman played a cop (typical, but honest), Rodriguez and FBI agent, and Santoro a ex-military soldier. It’s not ideal, but it’s a work in progress and improving year to year. What is bizarre, though, is that producers approved the hiring of non-Mexican actors to play Mexicans. The worst being Noriega who is from Spain. Santoro is from Brazil, Rodriguez from Venezuela and Guzman from Puerto Rico. I guess Hollywood thinks we’re all the same species.
One critical element of the feature that isn’t necessarily seen, but felt, is the action tempo. South Korean director Jee-woon Kim, he of one of the best Asian films I’ve seen in a long time, ‘I Saw the Devil,’ manages to integrate seamlessly all the thumps, bangs and smacks in a rhythmic choreographic tempo. And it is this element that allows the action sequences to flourish and the comedy to be enjoyed. The timing, the pace, the beats are all in-synch in nice blend of action comedy that provides a wonderful exciting experience at the movies.
In regards to Schwarzenegger’s personal performance, he can still deliver a punch in his one-liners and he can still carry a movie. If you had put Ron Perlman or a Lyle Alzado type in his place, this would be lost somewhere in the bottom feeders of my Netflix Instawatch. How does ‘The Last Stand’ rank amongst his films? Not in the Top 10, but above ‘The 6th Day’ and ‘Red Heat’.
Go see it. It is a very funny movie and the entertainment value is thru the roof.