The Last Stand (2013)
A new Arnold movie! I as going to hold off and see this one Saturday night, but my Alamo Drafthouse tossed in a Thursday 10:30pm show partway through the day and Karl, my good friend of the last 25+ years, was willing to share the stupidity of going out to see a late show on a school night. Was a fun throwback to days when we would regularly go out to see Arnold movies on opening night. Based on the marketing, my chief concerns going in were whether Arnold still has his acting chops and a fear that Johnny Knoxville may be featured prominently. I'm sure his inclusion was an attempt to get some of the Jackass crowd out to the theater, but seems an odd casting choice for the setting.
Mercifully, Johnny is not Arnold's sidekick or anything and isn't in an overwhelming number of scenes. Surprisingly, his character fit in pretty well and the bits he had were mostly funny and acted well. There were a couple of them that seemed like they were setup and shot straight out of a Jackass film and those were slightly distracting, but each was pretty damn funny, so I'll let that pass. The rest of the supporting cast was quite good and I particularly liked Jamie (those eyes!) and thought the bits with her and the other deputies just doing their job as deputies were some of the stronger moments in the film.
Overall, the film is about what you'd expect, although I was pleasantly surprised that the final battle isn't the whole movie (maybe the last 30 minutes?), and was glad they took their time to establish the characters. The whole Badass Car stuff was a little overdone to my tastes, but did provide opportunities for a little action before we get to Arnold's town and not have the whole thing be one big battle sequence. Most of the action genre beats are hit, complete with throw-away villain, goons who don't think for themselves, and Forrest getting the shouting lead detective stereotype down pat. As such, it's a pretty tame and safe movie, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment in the least.
As to Arnold, it's a bit of a mixed bag. He's a bit uneven and occasionally stilted compared to some of his better work, but overall he turns in a very solid performance. He still has the swagger, gets plenty of opportunities to glare menacingly, and I thought they handled his age very well. Contrary to what I expected going in, it's not a wall of one-liners or Arnold constantly shooting massive weapons at everyone. The Gatling gun scene is fun, as is the completely awesome throw-bad-guy-out-window-while-shooting-him-in-the-head gag, but the slower moments where Arnold comforts his deputies and chats up the locals at their diner were my favorites.
Quite impressed by Jee-woon's work as director. If the IMDB-listed budget of $30m is correct, then he did a hell of a job getting that much action in on a third of what most people consider a small budget these days. Coming right off The Expendables 2, it was refreshing not to see CGI all over the place and shows that it can still be just a tool, not a necessity these days. His pacing was excellent and the chase sequence through the corn fields at the end was both clever and riveting. Bonus points for the inclusion of Arnold's old Conan sword. I'll definitely be checking out The Good, The Bad, and The Weird or I Saw the Devil in the near future to see more of his work.
Ahnold Quotient - 6
They don't comment on his size or use it to much effect other than the final fisticuffs, but we do get some good one-liners and some pretty good screen presence from him. Several good aaauuuaaaggghhhhs in there as well as considerable gunplay and perhaps this is setting the new benchmark for what we have to look toward in Older Arnold's movies: A little tamer, but still Arnold.
Rewatchability - Sure
Very enjoyable time and all around nice return to form for Arnold. I'd be happy to recommend this to any fan of Arnold or action movies. It doesn't surprise, but it does an excellent job at providing some entertainment and escapism. This falls pretty soundly into the "guilty pleasure" category for me and I'd happily watch it again, just wouldn't be something in the regular rotation.
Up next - Who knows? I've started up Arnold's book, but nothing much to comment on yet and I don't think debating the merits of each chapter is going to make for a particularly memorable discussion. Karl reminded me that he had suggested I run through all of John Cusak's movies, and that's not a bad thought. He has some critically acclaimed ones, quite a few guilty pleasure ones, and several complete yawners. I've always thought he was a solid actor, but I've never really looked at his movies for the craft involved. He did unfortunately make a crapload of movies, so I'll need to narrow it down somewhat.