In “The Last Stand,” Ahhh-nuld parties like it’s 1989. Or tries to.
This is retro “Raw Deal”-era Schwarzenegger, a modern-day Western with the aging action hero as a sheriff dead set on stopping the army of an escaped drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) from helping a dapper Latin psychopath racing a souped-up Corvette get across the border.
Sleepy little Sommerton Junction, on the Arizona-Mexico border, is where the Austrian-accented ex-narcotics cop Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is sheriff, presiding over a trio of inept deputies (Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander and Zach Gilford), keeping the peace among the locals.
A suspicious character (Peter Stormare, inexplicably doing a Scandinavian/South Carolina drawl) tips Ray that something is up long before a local farmer’s murder confirms it.
Meanwhile, the drug lord Cortez and his minions have staged an elaborate escape from federal custody in Las Vegas, and that has FBI agent Bannister (Forest Whitaker) in a tizzy.
The bland bad guy is racing for the border. Call the sheriff – “Tell him to stay out of the way.”
Nothing doing. Better deputize, oh, the ex-Marine with the soccer star’s accent (Rodrigo Santoro) and maybe the local gun nut (Johnny Knoxville), who lends the good guys an illegal arsenal – “That’s between us and Jesus. Ain’t nothing Uncle Sam needs to know about.”
At least he brings along a “Jackass” stunt in the bargain.
It’s a junky, crowd-pleasing movie of sidekicks – Guzman and Knoxville – and catch phrases. (“You make us immigrants look bad. Dis iz my home.”)
They hired Korean director Kim Jee-woon (the suspenseful “I Saw the Devil”) and basically stuck him with staging shootouts – a couple of OK ones – and a couple of decent car-chases, which probably owe more to stunt coordinator Wade Allen (“Red Dawn,” “Drive”) and the need for that Chevrolet product placement.
All for a formulaic genre movie designed to reintroduce Arnold to a new generation of action audiences. He gets to show that his years as California governor didn’t improve his acting, that he’s an “old man” still able to hold his own in the one fist fight “The Last Stand” demands of him. He has his moments, though.
And he gets to burnish his image in a 100-minute-long ad for the National Rifle Association, a jokey shoot-’em-up with all manner of overarmed citizenry ready and able to put down their walkers and plug a bad guy when the need arises.
Which it does, this being Arizona and with Arnold being stuck in 1989.
There are filmgoers nostalgic for this sort of fascist/gun-fetishist drivel. Not me. Give me “Seven Psychopaths” any day.