Posts tagged Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ever since I devoured Dana Fredsti’s thrilling zombie novel Plague Town last April, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its sequel Plague Nation. Thankfully I was rewarded with it earlier this month, and got a chance to start it during my morning commute. I found myself on the edge of my seat, literally so absorbed, that I didn’t even realize I had gotten on the wrong train. Now that’s gripping zombie literature!
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In The Last Stand, a dangerous FBI fugitive frantically flees toward the Mexican border, and the only one standing in his way is a small town sheriff played by Ah-nold Schwarzenegger?!?! Sounds like a bizarre comeback film for the former Governator right? Given many of the aged Austrian action star’s previous larger-than-life roles, you don’t expect him to play an Average Joe. That type of character seems better suited to an everyman actor, maybe even someone with a Southern-fried personality.
Surprisingly Arnold makes the role work for him, because he takes a straightforward approach to his character. He doesn’t feign a Southern accent or pretend to be super patriotic. He portrays a disillusioned cop named Ray, who left the glamor of big city policing in favor of a peaceful life in the desert. Ray doesn’t want to use violence; he’s forced into it when the bad guys step foot in his town and attack his deputies. Arnold is playing the reluctant hero, which we haven’t seen him do in a while, but it’s something he actually does well.
We all know Arnold’s not the greatest actor; although in this film he does the best with the material he’s given, leaning heavily on the delivery of his lines to help convey his character’s sentiments. He doesn’t get many one-liners that are funny, however there are a couple, like when he chides the villain for “f**king up” his day off.
Despite being in his 60s, Arnold proves that he can still kick ass, with an epically awesome gunfight, a frenetic car chase, and a gritty hand-to-hand showdown with the main baddie Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega). He doesn’t try to pretend he’s invincible anymore like in his younger action hero days though. Arnold playfully acknowledges his age a couple of times. The most notable instance occurs when he’s thrown through a glass door. Someone asks “Sheriff, how are you?” to which he responds “Old,” but thankfully not “Too old for this s**t.”
Sadly, the dialogue in The Last Stand isn’t very clever, and the story isn’t particularly compelling. There are also amazing character actors like Harry Dean Stanton and Forest Whitaker who are criminally underused. However there are some entertaining folks that see more screen time like Luis Guzman and Johnny Knoxville, who play two of Ray’s goofy allies. Peter Stormare is fun too as the heavily armed henchman Burrell.
Two things that save The Land Stand from being dangerously average are the over-the-top getaway schemes from Noriega’s cartel boss and the incredibly skillful directing of Jee-woon Kim. The cartoonish plans by Cortez are creative, involving a giant magnet, zip lines, a massive plow truck, a modified Corvette, and night vision. You’ll be comically impressed when his elaborate plotting comes together.
Jee-woon Kim assembles an aesthetically pleasing action film, using smooth well-framed shots throughout. His fistfights are refreshingly cut so that they’re easy to follow and his car chases are riveting, especially the one that takes place in a corn field. Kim keeps the movie moving at a relatively brisk pace that falters a bit toward the middle, but picks back up again once shooting starts.
The Last Stand is a by-the-numbers action flick that harkens back to simpler tales like you’d find in the 1980s. That’s part of its appeal though. Arnold returns to the genre, as a reluctant hero who manages to step up and save the day. He may be older, but he shows that he’s willing and able to adapt himself. I’m looking forward to his next few projects.
My Grade: B
Leading up to its release “The Expendables” made some bold announcements about the star power of its cast, touting the big three: Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Willis under one roof. Despite Willis and Schwarzenegger’s appearances being nothing more than cameos, Stallone also played up the presence of other giants of the genre like Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Steve Austin. Instead of creating a compelling action movie with all these stars though, Stallone “is just here” running this film on autopilot. He fails to utilize the potential of these actors in favor of churning out a mediocre product that he knows will make money because of the names involved.
The title team, which includes Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Statham), Ying Yang (Li), Gunner (Lundgren), Toll Road (Couture), and Hale Cesear (Crews) is introduced as a gang of highly skilled ex-military men for hire that go to the highest bidder. We know that one of them is a drug user, but we don’t know what drugs he does or even why he does them. This member is kicked to the curb, while the others consider a new job that involves assasinating the brutal Latin American dictator of an island. After Ross and Christmas travel to the island to scout the mission, the men discover that things are more complicated than they seem; American businessmen are bankrolling the dictator so that they can exploit the island’s natural resources.
An encounter with a local woman who risks her life to help them escape, inspires Barney to liberate the people from captivity. He easily convinces his teammates to return with him, even though there is no money involved in this venture. Once the men set foot on the island again , the bad guys are enveloped in a hailstorm of bullets, explosions, and knives.
“The Expendables” lacks the very minimal character development that belongs in an action movie. Giant questions remain unanswered such as who these people are, why they are friends, what they have been through together, and why they continue do what they do. The only characters that get back story are arguably second string: Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas and Mickey Rourke’s Tool. Statham’s romantic story is bland and uninteresting; however Rourke’s remorseful soldier actually has some weight. You get a chance to see the emotional impact that the mercenary life has on Tool’s conscience.
Another reason “The Expendables” disappoints aside from weak characters, is the lack of jaw dropping action sequences. It does not really deliver the epic explosions and the high body count consistently, waiting until the final act to go wild. Even then the battle is not well shot or cut, amounting to a shaky mess. The one thing that does work to Stallone’s credit in this movie is that it’s effects are as old school as its actors. Very little if any CG is used in the film, producing a more realistic gritty experience for the viewer.
My Grade: C-