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‘Last Stand’ rises to the occasion

Article Published: Jan. 24, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 24, 2013
‘Last Stand’ rises to the occasion

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in 'The Last Stand.'

“Governor of California” may have been Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most ambitious role yet.

Some might say it was an egregious case of miscasting, but it spawned a sequel, nonetheless.

In his first starring role since that critically panned political drama, Schwarzenegger returns to form in “The Last Stand,” an all-too-welcome throwback to the unapologetic action movies of yesteryear.

Proudly rated R and riddled with stunts, action, blood squibs and bullet holes, it’s a modern-day spaghetti Western that’d be perfectly at home in the ’80s, an era obviously appreciated – and celebrated – by director Kim Ji-woon (“I Saw the Devil”).

Schwarzenegger (“The Terminator”) stars as Ray Owens, the sheriff of a sleepy Arizona border town that’s about to have a rude awakening.

Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega, “Vantage Point”), the notorious leader of a Mexican drug cartel, has escaped FBI custody and is speeding toward the border in a souped-up, supercharged Corvette.

Cortez always seems to be several steps ahead of his would-be captors and even contracting a hired gun (Peter Stormare, “The Big Lebowski”) and his lackeys to construct a bridge to Mexico over an otherwise inconvenient ravine.

It just so happens that ravine is located right outside of Owens’ town, and it just so happens that Owens is a former vice cop from L.A.

With Cortez avoiding and misleading the FBI at every turn, it falls to Owens and his motley team of deputies (Luis Guzman, “Traffic,” Jaimie Alexander, “Thor,” and Zach Gilford, TV’s “Friday Night Lights”) to stop them – even if it means deputizing a prisoner (Rodrigo Santoro, “I Love You, Phillip Morris”) and a marginally insane gun hoarder (Johnny Knoxville, TV’s “Jackass”).

It’s a simple formula that amounts to pure entertainment — especially for Schwarzenegger fans – and director Kim makes it work with a straightforward plot and straight-shooting action.

“The Last Stand” isn’t a cerebral movie, nor does it aim to be. It refuses to take itself too seriously and has a blast in the process.

And the fun is contagious. Everyone involved seems to be having a great time, particularly Schwarzenegger, who has no qualms with poking fun at his age.

But for a man of 65, he still knows how to deliver a punch. And in “The Last Stand,” there’s no shortage of those. Kim’s cleverly choreographed action sequences –particularly the climactic showdown and a cleverly framed chase scene through a cornfield – are superb, utilizing actual stunts and pyrotechnics in lieu of the standard-issue CGI that hampers most modern actioners.

It’s old-school Arnold, and he’s glad to be back.

“The Last Stand,” rated R for strong, bloody violence throughout and language, is playing at Carmike 14 in Hickory. For show times, visit

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