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Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'The Last Stand' is formulaic but a fun action film

'The Last Stand' has plenty of plot holes but is a great throwback to the days of Schwarzenegger's earlier films.

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Part of the success is owed to a smart mix of side characters – both supporting roles and townsfolk bit parts. Onscreen, Noriega’s Cortez – coupled with that super-powered car – serves as a competent ‘force of nature’ antagonist, even if his overall character is relatively standard. Furthermore, the assembled Sommerton Junction force of Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzmán) and Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) - along with drunkard war veteran Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) – provides a good counter-balance to Schwarzenegger’s grumpy-but-honorable sheriff. Enjoying second-billing in the film’s marketing, Knoxville’s role as Dinkum isn’t that big, but his performance provides some of the more humorous moments. On its own, the sheer elation on Dinkum’s face while feeding bullets into a mini-gun is bound to help win-over at least a few cynics.

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Still there, would be no Last Stand without Schwarzenegger’s larger-than-life persona. Despite a few scenes of overly-sentimental dialogue, where the action star comes across as a bit stiff, Schwarzenegger carries the film. It’s not a career-changing performance, since Owens is mostly an aged riff on characters we’ve seen the actor portray in the past. Nevertheless, he’s the perfect protagonist for the situation depicted in the film. It’s clear that to help separate Owens from the list of memorable Schwarzenegger roles, the actor plays the character to his strengths – even incorporating some interesting self-referential banter about his history with Los Angeles. Instead of distancing this movie from his public persona, Schwarzenegger smartly embraces it – especially when the action ramps up.

A few set pieces of vehicular manslaughter keep the plot moving for the first half of the film and some viewers will likely find the overarching plot to be stretched too thin upfront. However, the second half of the movie provides one explosive setup after another – making smart use of main street Sommertown Junction and surrounding areas. Most notably, a sequence about two-thirds of the way through ups the ante – providing a quick succession of crowd-pleasing moments that lead into a slick (albeit campy) finale.

Director Kim Ji-woon finds a solid balance between cheese and stylized action with his American debut – while making smart use of a likable and quirky roster of characters. Ultimately, The Last Stand is a fun throwback to the days of formulaic but immensely entertaining Schwarzenegger-led films. After the actor’s ten year hiatus, the gamble pays off this round, but with a healthy does of in-development action roles ahead of him, audiences may be less excited about similar performances down the line. Yet, for now at least, watching Schwarzenegger fire shotguns and body slam bad guys is as enjoyable as ever.

Ben Kendrick blogs at Screen Rant.

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