Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Last Stand." (Merrick Morton / Lionsgate )
It's his first starring role in 10 years. "The Last Stand" finds former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to his action roots, this time as a former LAPD officer turned small-town Arizona sheriff who takes on a runaway drug lord (Eduardo Noriega). The result, according to critics, is neither a grand homecoming nor a complete disaster, but rather a passable action flick.
The Times' Mark Olsen writes that "this freewheeling vehicle is strictly concerned with cars, firepower and massive explosions." He adds that "'The Last Stand' may not herald a full-scale reemergence for Arnold the Action Star, but it's clearly a step in that direction. In an age when even comic book adaptations have a dour seriousness about them, this is a movie content with just being good, old-fashioned fun."
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern advises, "The best way to see this munitions-intensive action adventure, if you must see it at all, is in the context of a shrewd commercial enterprise. … That said, the action component pays off." Of the Korean director Kim Jee-woon, who makes his English-language debut with "The Last Stand," Morgenstern writes, his "eye for graphic action is more reliable than his ear for English nuance."
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Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle describes the "The Last Stand" as "the movie equivalent of an idiot who, to avoid scorn, starts acting like an even bigger idiot, so as to get in on the joke, too." He continues: "It takes everything and nothing seriously, depending on what the filmmakers think they can get away with at any given moment, and the result, while not painful to watch, is ridiculous."
Scott Foundas of the Village Voice says the film "does exactly what it should: It leaves us wanting more." Schwarzenegger can still "deliver a catchphrase with deadpan savoir faire," and after a "dreary" first hour, "Kim finally lets loose, and the imaginatively choreographed mayhem that ensues — culminating in two fast cars chasing each other across a pesky cornfield — can be a wonder to behold."
NPR's Stephanie Zacharek says, "Schwarzenegger is the big draw here, and he seems to be having a reasonably good time, getting roughed up here and there and putting his trademark 'What, me worry?' line delivery to use." But Zacharek deems Kim's directorial efforts uneven, saying the film's "attempts at violent humor are scattershot" and "most of the action sequences are indistinctly shot and choppily edited; they flip by in a blur of noise." Zacharek agrees with Foundas that the cornfield car chase is "pretty magnificent," but Kim ultimately "takes too long to wrap things up, fumbling repeatedly on his way to an ending."
In Todd McCarthy's review for the Hollywood Reporter, in which he calls "The Last Stand" a "formulaic concoction," he also points out that "The title is already a misnomer: The 65-year-old action icon has completed two additional films and has two or three more in the pipeline as he attempts to engineer a viable comeback after his detour through Sacramento."
Not that anyone should be surprised, of course. Arnold always assured us he'd be back.