‘The Last Stand’

Grade: B

Rated: R

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eduardo Noriega

Now that his reign as “The Governator” is officially over, Arnold Schwarzenegger is ready to shoot bad guys, sell one-liners, and butcher the English language again. Schwarzenegger fought beside his action star comrades in “The Expendables 2” last August. Now he takes center stage for the first time since “Terminator 3” in “The Last Stand.” Although it may not go down as one of Schwarzenegger’s best outings, “The Last Stand” is still a satisfying comeback for the 65-year-old bodybuilder turned “actor.”

Schwarzenegger is fittingly cast as Ray Owens, a former LA cop who moves to a small town in Arizona. After seeing so much blood and death on the job, Ray wants nothing more than to live a laid back life as a sheriff. Little does he know that Eduardo Noriega’s Gabriel Cortez, an infamous drug kingpin, has escaped FBI custody and is passing through his town. You have a pretty good idea what happens from there. This is your typical action movie about a small-time cop who stands up against the meanest bad guy imaginable. As many times as we see this plot recycled, it is hard to complain when the material is entertainingly executed. Luckily, “The Last Stand” manages to pull it off.

Everybody can probably agree that Schwarzenegger has never been, or ever will be, a great actor. Whether he’s playing a spy, a commando, or a pregnant man, you never see a character, you just see Schwarzenegger. He clearly isn’t trying to broaden his limited range in “The Last Stand.” Then again, it’d be foolish for anybody to expect Shakespeare in the park from him at this point in his career. The guy is simply appealing to his legion of fans that love seeing him do what he does best. Schwarzenegger further reminds us that while he may not be Daniel Day-Lewis, he is almost always a lot of fun to watch.

Schwarzenegger isn’t the only creditable name on the cast list. Jaimie Alexander and Rodrigo Santoro are solid as two lovers who swear to protect the town alongside Ray. The comedic relief is sufficiently provided by Luis Guzmán as the chubby, old deputy and Johnny Knoxville as a redneck gun nut with an arsenal of weaponry. Forest Whitaker is good as always as the FBI agent in charge of finding the escaped convict and fortunately isn’t written to be a complete idiot. As far as villains go, Noriega’s character might not be on the same level as Javier Bardem in “Skyfall.” Nevertheless, he’s acceptable in the role and holds his own against Schwarzenegger in an energized final face-off.

Not too long ago David Ayer made “End of Watch,” a powerful fictional film about the sacrifices cops make to keep the streets safe. “The Last Stand” is more in the romanticized vein of something like “Taken 2” than the brutally believable “End of Watch.” What separates “The Last Stand” from the disappointing “Taken” follow-up is the thrilling action and knowing sense of humor. In his first American film, director Kim Ji-woon always keeps matters moving with plenty of laughs and applause-worthy moments. It’s kind of ironic that the best moment in the film is not provided by Schwarzenegger, but a shotgun-wielding old lady. Regardless, it’s still great to see Schwarzenegger back in form after such a long hiatus. We can now officially say that Schwarzenegger is, indeed, back.

Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu.

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