The Last Stand (USA, 2013)

the-last-stand-movie-posterDirected by: Kim Jee-woon. Talk about judging a book by its cover! Schwarzenegger’s big return as a leading man since his governorship and he’s playing a small-town sheriff protecting his town against Mexican druglords in what amounts to a modern day Western….and it’s directed by fucking Kim Jee-Woon! I don’t claim to know anything about this guy other than I Saw the Devil, but even knowing that much, the thought of dropping Schwarzenegger in the middle that world was just too bizarre and captivating to pass up. I can’t say that I recommend this in a straightforward way, that I thought that this was a really great movie and that everyone should spend 2 hours watching it. I can’t say that it isn’t inherently foolish and decadent to consume art “ironically”, whatever the fuck that even means (you either like something or you don’t, don’t you???). So on one hand, I was completely aware of all of the glaring faults in this movie, but on the other hand, I completely enjoyed it, and maybe not even in spite of its faults, but because of them. Kind of like listening to Meat Loaf. Is this the definition of ironic consumption? Whatever you want to call it, this is one hell of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and Kim does an admirable job of filling the equivalent role of a modern-day Paul Verhoeven. The latter’s skewed, perpetually self-parodic view of the world is sorely lacking in modern Hollywood, which seems to either take itself way too seriously or, in the tradition of Michael Bay, create something utterly void of substance and meaning. This movie certainly slants toward the latter category, but, as with the Taken movies, I still find this movie really fascinating and satisfying in a way that I can’t fully account for. Call me a hypocrite, but I find layers—or at least traces of layers—of unintended meaning in these movies. I love the way that this unlikely cast works together in this unlikely situation, bouncing incongruous characters and ideas and tones off each other as they try to unite under a director who’s not only alien to Hollywood, but who was directing entirely through an interpreter. And, of course, knowing Kim Jee-Woon (which I don’t), maybe this movie was entirely the unadulterated product of his vision, and he fully intended the strange results of pairing Peter Stormare’s deeply disturbing evil slimeball presence with the comic relief and pratfalls of Luis Guzman’s character and especially Johnny Knoxville; the almost Lynchian pairing of overly sanitized, nearly Christian-film level of wholesome, small-town USA (exaggerated to the point of cartoonish unbelievability) with bits of extreme yet obviously fake violence like the CGI blood-mist that flies up when Harry Dean Stanton’s character is killed (and extra points to Mr. Kim for getting a Harry Dean Stanton cameo in the first place); and the entire 20 minute climax, from the (genuinely) very impressive car chase through a corn maze to the incredibly unreal (hyperreal?) fist fight between Arnie and the Mexican cartel druglord, duking it out on a metal bridge against a very obvious and seemingly unnecessary green-screened background of a natural desert landscape, where we get a monumental achievement in an Arnie film (that I’ve seen). Namely, Arnie’s character breaks the code of silence and acknowledges the obvious fact that his character, always with an Anglo-Saxon name, is not originally from America, when he deadpans,”People like you give us immigrants a bad name.” See it for yourself—this movie is not a “good” movie (I haven’t even touched on the inane role they dug up for the amazing Forest Whitaker) but holy cow is it fascinating. It’s a dumb movie but it’s made by smart people, and that’s the difference between Verhoeven and Michael Bay. See for yourself.

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3 responses to “The Last Stand (USA, 2013)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2014 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Taken 3 (France, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: The Good, the Bad, the Weird (South Korea, 2008) | Offhand Reviews·

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