Now on Blu-ray: THE LAST STAND Falls Flat On Its Back

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
While most of the movie loving world was waiting with bated breath for the return of the king of '80s action - that'd be Arnold Schwarzenegger - in The Last Stand, there were a few of us diehards eagerly awaiting the new Kim Jee-woon movie. Unfortunately, they ended up being the same project and neither one lived up to its potential. The Last Stand is disappointingly pedestrian in its new-fangled approach to action. There was nothing in the film that I couldn't have found in any given Jason Statham film, except, of course, for the big guy leading the charge. For me, Schwarzenegger was just not enough to make this film - seemingly hobbled by studio expectations - exciting or entertaining.

I don't share the enthusiasm for Schwarzenegger that may of my contemporaries do, however, I do recognize that he has a massive following, even after staying out of the Hollywood spotlight for a dozen or so years. I like a lot of his movies, and think that the man makes up for his questionable grasp of the language and equally questionable acting talent with raw charisma, however, he's never been a marquee draw for me, so maybe this was just an ill fit all around. Schwarzenegger does a fine job with what he's given, but I just expected to have a bit more meat on these bones, rather than such a cookie cutter project. Which brings me to my second complaint...

Park Chan-wook got Stoker, Bong Joon-ho gets Snowpiercer, and the mighty Kim Jee-woon gets The Last Stand? I'll not get into a shoving match over who is the most talented (it's Kim), however, the choices that were made just baffle me. Kim is a much better director than this, you can scoop out any five minutes of The Good, The Bad, and The Weird and be more entertained than in the entire runtime of The Last Stand. Was the language barrier too much to overcome? Was there too much studio pressure to make a standard, potboiler of an action film? Did Kim just make a bad choice for his Hollywood debut? It's probably a mix of all of these factors, and the result bored me more than anything. Hopefully this film wakes Kim up and either sends him back to Korea to continue an amazing career, or at the very least wise him up and inspire him to chose films worthy of his talent.

When The Last Stand hit theaters, we had two reviewers watching it on opposite ends of the world. One who more or less agreed with me, and one who thanked heaven for the mercy provided by lowered expectations...

Here's how James Marsh summed up his disappointment:
The Last Stand is not horrible by any means. Once it gets past an uneven opening act and events dovetail towards its climactic stand off, there is plenty of late-night, high caliber explosive fun to be had. That said, at a time when Hollywood B movies have become their A movies, to produce something that is still most definitely a B movie must be considered something of a disappointment. When held up for comparison against both the actor and director's previous bodies of work, The Last Stand is a passable return to hero duties for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but must also be acknowledged as the worst film of Kim Jee-woon's career.
And here's Jason Gorber's contrary opinion:
With all the nostalgia for films like they used to make, films from an age when things blew up real good and action stars who were bigger than life, it's refreshing to see a film play it on its own terms. Yes, I can compare The Last Stand favourably to Battleship as a film that seems to "get it", while granting that that's not likely to win it many converts. Plus, between this film, Les Misérables and The Dark Knight Rises, it's clear that we're smack in the middle of a "barricade movie" trend.

The Last Stand is a fabulous, turn-off-your-brain ride that doesn't rear up and make you feel stupid. There's a lightness and charm at work that for some reason seems near impossible for other similar films to achieve, a credit to Kim Jee-woon and his collaborators. With the right audience of like-minded people, The Last Stand could well be one of the most unabashedly fun experiences you'll have at a theatre this year.
You can probably guess with whom I'm siding in this battle.

The Disc:

The Last Stand looks and sounds just as great as you'd imagine. While it is far from even being Kim Jee-woon's most technically accomplished, the movie looks great, no problems. The more impressive part of the disc is probably the audio, a massive DTS-HD MA 7.2 track that will wake the neighbors, this audio track kicks a whole lot of ass and keeps the action moving. Lionsgate have tacked on about an hour of decent bonus material. While most of is reeks of EPK, it's definitely more engaging that the usual crap. Arnie doesn't get all of the attention, the producers talk quite a bit about how excited they were to get Kim on board (so why does this look nothing like a Kim film), and it was worth checking out.

Overall, unless you're an Arnie fanatic (not me) or a Kim Jee-woon completist (definitely me), you can probably rent this one and not miss a trick.
Around the Internet:
  • hutch

    pfft. Ryoo Seung-wan.

  • Grammatica

    Dude, "however" is not a coordinating conjunction, so it can't join independent clauses (like "so" does in this sentence). Put a semicolon before that mofo.

  • Dave Baxter

    I'm someone who was sincerely disappointed with The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. Of all three directors you listed I think Kim has the least handle on story and pacing and could care less about character. His films are usually less bogged down by the penchant for quiet, brooding, purely aesthetic moments that Bong and Park give in to, but Kim tends to replace this with a lot of busy, frenetic but empty scenes that don't really add much to the narrative and/or are there just to show how Johnny Depp-style eccentric the characters are. Whenever I watch Bong or Park's films, I never lose interest, even if I can't tell where they're going with the conceit. But Kim's films I tend to just stare at and constantly realize I'm spacing out and not paying attention. This goes for films that Kim only writes, too, like THE UNINVITED.

    He's an incredibly talented director, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to storytelling, I think he has little radar to gauge which projects are good and which are just empty filler.

  • sitenoise

    "I'll not get into a shoving match over who is the most talented (it's Kim)"
    <shove> Bong </shove>

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