Also on action movie front, Jason Statham as ‘Parker’
After taking a break from movies to run the state of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back on the big screen in The Last Stand, a fast-paced, excessively violent and mediocre action flick. Surely the former governor of the state could have come across a better script for his return to the big screen in a starring role. (I’m not counting his cameos in the two Expendable movies.)
This by-the-action-book script about a drug cartel boss who has escaped from federal custody features Schwarzenegger as a small town sheriff on the Arizona-Mexico border whose task is to stop this ultra slick bad guy in a specially designed souped-up car backed by an army of gang members clearing the path to freedom. The sheriff’s support is a couple of less-than-stellar deputies plus a former military guy who is released from jail to help the cause.
Despite a totally forgettable plot and one’s realization that Schwarzenegger’s acting didn’t improve despite all the improvisations he did as a politician, the car sequences and several of the action highlights, especially a scene involving Johnny Knoxville and a gatling gun, are decent as staged by South Korean director Jee-woon Kim.
The supporting cast features an odd mix, including Forest Whitaker, who isn’t given much to do as the FBI agent in charge of the manhunt, acclaimed Brazilian superstar Rodrigo Santoro as the ex-military guy, Swedish-born Peter Stormare as one of the cartel’s top lieutenants, Jaimie Alexander as the token female and for comic relief, Luis Guzman and Knoxville. Harry Dean Stanton also shows up for a cameo role that is rather distressing.
Schwarzenegger looks old, and him saying he feels old on screen might be good for a cheap laugh, but it begs the question of what his continuing contribution to moviemaking will be. If he can’t be an action hero anymore and with his limited acting skills, what are his options? As long as there are producers out there willing to give him more roles, I guess we’ll find out down the road.
Statham’s Latest Tough Guy
Jason Statham continues his run as one of today’s more effective tough guy action heroes in Parker. Based on a book by Donald Westlake, Statham’s Parker is the same character played by Mel Gibson in Payback and going back even further, Lee Marvin in Point Blank. Both of those movies are far superior to this latest take on the character, despite the solid effort by Statham.
Directed by Taylor Hackford, whose quality of work has been a rollercoaster (An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds and Ray at the top; Love Ranch, Proof of Life on the bottom) wants this to be an effective action picture that also features some emotional complexities.
However, after a terrific start involving a heist at a carnival, followed by a falling out among the thieves that leaves Statham’s Parker on the side of the road presumed dead, the film drags along to the point of being tedious. Parker seeks revenge and tracks the crew to Palm Beach where he hooks up with a desperate real estate agent (Jennifer Lopez), who figures out what Parker is doing and wants in on the score.
In the end Parker wants to be more than a standard action film, and those efforts, ironically, are what sabotaged any chance the film had to be good as a pure action film.
The Last Stand
Directed by Jee-woon Kim; rated R
Directed by Taylor Hackford; rated R
While admitting this is damning with faint praise, Sylvester Stallone delivers a better aging action hero in Bullet to the Head than Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Last Stand.
Director Steven Soderbergh and his screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, Bourne Ultimatum) were inspired to create Side Effects based on their fascination/revulsion with all the drug commercials on TV.