Friday, January 18, 2013

The Last Stand [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Richard Roeper (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B) Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Richard Roeper's review
AVClub's review

The Last Stand (directed by Jee-woon Kim, story and original screenplay by Andrew Knauer, rewrite by Jeffrey Nachmanoff supervised by George Nolfi) is I suppose what one could expect of an Arnold Schwarzenegger starring action movie.  There's, of course, a heck of a lot of gun play.  There's also a bit of "Ahnold" Schwarzenegger charm, some self deprecating jokes about his age (He's over sixty now, and playing here in his first full-length action movie since serving 2 terms as Governor of California).

All this said, the film is definitely problematic on two fronts.  First, it is needlessly graphic.  Yes, that a lot of bullets are spent and a lot of glass is broken is standard fare in Hollywood "shoot em up" action movies.  But only some of these movies make it a point of lingering or even focusing on the gore.  This is one of those films.  Yes, we see an evil lieutenant of a drug kingpin kill a troublesome local (American) farmer near the border of Arizona and Mexico.  But did we really need to see him blow his head off with bits of head flying all over the place?   And this choice of showing the blood / gore is made repeatedly in the film.  And as far as I can see the choice is made to no particular purpose except perhaps to shock.

The second problem, is to be found in the appalling racial messaging in this film, this despite the film's apparently significant rewrite:  Blacks are shown as incompetent. The hapless FBI agent John Bannister (played by Forest Whitaker) first loses and then is repeatedly unable to recapture a Mexican drug kingpin named "Gabriel Cortez" (played by Eduardo Noriega) who he was responsible for.  There's also a black "swat commander" who's shown only long enough to register that he's black and completely out of his depth because _seconds_ after receiving an order from said Agent Banister he and his unit are completely put out of commission by said escaping Mexican drug kingpin).  Hispanics are shown as alternatively cowardly to a "minstrel show level" as portrayed by Luis Guzman playing the silly, comic-relief affording deputy named Mike Figuerola to the strong (and über-white) Sheriff Ray Owens (played, of course, by Arnold Schwarzenegger) or criminal as exemplified by the escaping drug-king pin "Cortez" and even a turncoat woman Hispanic FBI agent played by Genesis Rodriguez who helps Cortez escape in the first place.  Even "the white women" while "dependable under fire" as exemplified by Sheriff's deputy Sarah Torrance (played by Jaimee Alexander) seem to prefer to be "led by a strong (and white) man" if only one would step up ... which Ahnold, of course, does as does (eventually ...) poor Sarah's "boys will be boys" ex-and-future boyfriend.

All this is somewhat sad because Schwarzenegger has played his share of GERMAN accented (or otherwise FOREIGN accented) villains in his day.  But perhaps he's back to taking the roles that he can get.

In any case, perhaps the best way to see a film like this is to see it as a double feature with Robert Rodriguez' Machete [2010] (which inverts just about every one of these stereotypes) and then wonder why these blood-soaked films are made at all.

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