Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to R-rated action movie stardom, his first starring role since his foray into politics, didn't exactly set the box office on fire but 2013's The Last Stand, directed by Korean filmmaker Je-woon Kim (the man behind the excellent I Saw The Devil), was a ridiculously entertaining movie. With the home video release now upon us, hopefully the picture will find the audience it deserved. If those involved with the picture aren't reinventing the action movie or in any way attempting to turn the genre on its head, they've nevertheless turned in a rock solid slice of over the top ultraviolent entertainment, the kind that made Schwarzenegger a star in the first place.
The story isn't complicated, but it is effective. When the movie begins, we see a cop at a speed trap with his radar gun out enjoying a donut. Something cruises past him setting his radar detector off like never before that he thinks might be some sort of jet. He calls it in and from there we meet a small town sheriff named Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a man in charge of keeping the peace in very rural Sommerton, Arizona. It's a sleepy little town that sits pretty close to the Mexican border. Owens used to be a big shot out in Los Angeles but he's decided he'd rather live a quieter, more serene life in the country.
It turns out that the really fast thing we saw in the opening scene is actually a supercharged experimental car that has been stolen but a wanted drug lord named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega). He's planning on taking this thing over the border to evade further prison time and the best way for him to do that is to head through Sommerton. This leaves Owens in a bit of a bind - he's only got a very small staff working under him while Cortez has got cronies aplenty, and heavily armed ones at that. The Feds, led by John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), are after Cortez but one of his agents (Genesis Rodriguez) has been taken hostage and he can't quite seem to figure out how Cortez continues to stay one step ahead of them. It's all going to come to a head in Sommertown, with Ray and his crew, assisted by a local wingnut/gun collector named Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville), left to make a last stand in hopes of stopping Cortez from escaping and presumably wreaking even more havoc.
While The Last Stand might seem like familiar territory, that's half of its charm. This is a movie that borrows from pictures like High Noon and other classic western pictures and in terms of the story that it tells, despite the presence of plenty of quirky characters, it doesn't bring a whole lot of â€˜new' to the table. With that said, it's quite effective in what it does and it very much has the feel of a classic action movie, albeit one with a modern sensibility in terms of how the technology of today is used. Realism isn't much of a concern here, it's tossed aside for entertainment value so expect a couple of great shoot outs, one amazing (though completely ludicrous) car chase, and of course, a pretty solid good guy versus bad guy battle before the end credits hit the screen. The movie tosses in a completely unnecessary romantic subplot between Owens' female deputy (Jamie Alexander) and her troublemaker ex-boyfriend that adds some attempts at drama to the proceedings but its' there because Hollywood wants it there, not because it makes the movie any better. This is one you watch for the action, for the ridiculous characters, for the over the top levels of violence, for the fun supporting characters (Harry Dean Stanton, Luis Guzman and Sonny Landham all pop up!) and, of course, for Arnold and all that he brings to a movie in terms of screen presence and likability.
As far as the Arnold factor goes, he's not quite as involved in all of the mayhem and destruction this time around as he was in some of the movies that he made in his prime, but he still gives as good as he gets. He's still a larger than life persona and he's still a lot of fun to watch. His back and forth with the supporting players, Knoxville's insane Dinkum being the best example, offers some great comic relief, the kind that indicates we're not to take any of this too seriously, and the movie is better for it. Je-woon Kim has a firm handle on the pacing and keeps things moving at a good clip, and on top of that he knows how to stage an action set piece. Borrowing elements from the filmographies of action movie experts like John Woo and Sam Peckinpah he ensures that the choreographed chaos is always a blast to watch, bombarding us with plenty of inspired lunacy while never losing that sense of humor that keeps all of this fun. And that's the key word right there - fun. This isn't deep, it's not reinventing the wheel and it's not a movie you'll spend a lot of time thinking about it but it definitely is fun in the best R-rated sense of the word.
The Last Stand arrives on Blu-ray in an excellent looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1, just as you'd hope for with such a recent movie making the move to Blu-ray. Detail is always very strong as is texture and color reproduction, when not intentionally tweaked for artistic effect (there are a couple of shots that look intentionally hot and have somewhat bleached colors), generally looks nice and realistic. Reds in particular really shin here, they're deep and rich and bold and bright without looking too garish - you'll notice this in the bloody shoot outs that occur in the movie. Skin tones are nice and natural looking here, no obvious waxiness by way of noise reduction to complain about, and plenty of pores and stubble and facial detail to take in. Black levels are and pretty much reference quality. There aren't any issues with compression artifacts or noticeable edge enhancement and all in all, the movie fares very well in high definition. There are a few scenes where the camera moves really quickly and things look just a tad bit jerky but this is related to the camera work, not the transfer.
The only English language mix on the disc is a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix, but an optional Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is included and subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. Just as you'd expect from a recent big budget Hollywood action movie, this is a very aggressive track with some impressively enveloping moments. Rear channels are used very effectively to help build suspense with the score and to put you in the middle of the action by way of some great directional effects. Most of the dialogue comes out of the front of the mix, which makes sense, but there are times where characters will call to one another from off screen and we get some impressive directional work when that happens. Dialogue is always crystal clear and never hard to understand in the slightest. Bass response is strong, deep and powerful but only to the point where it accents things, never to the point where it buries them, and of course there are no issues with any hiss or distortion of any kind. It's hard to find fault with this mix, it's very, very impressive. When Johnny Knoxville's character rolls out his gattling gun? Get ready for some serious punch. And that car chase through the corn field? AWESOME. This is reference quality stuff.
The extras are pretty much relegated to a selection of modest featurettes, the first of which is the twenty-eight minute long documentary, Not In My Town: Making The Last Stand. Most of this is made of up cast, crew and producer interviews peppered with a bunch of admittedly quite interesting behind the scenes footage. More specific and less promotional in nature is the eleven minute Cornfield Chaos: Scene Breakdown which, as you could probably gather from the title, is a look at what went into staging and shooting the ridiculous but completely memorable chase scene that takes place between the good guy and the bad guy towards the end of the movie. It's a pretty fascinating glimpse into the technique required to make it happen. The Dinkum Firearm And Historic Weaponry Museum Tour is an interesting eleven minute segment in which the film's weapons consultant Larry Zanoff explains the differences between the various bizarre and/or antique weapons that Johnny Knoxville's character tends to enjoy pulling out at various intervals throughout the movie. Actor-Cam Anarchy With Johnny Knoxville And Jaimie Alexander is a collection of ten minutes or so worth of footage shot by the two leads in the movie on set sharing some of their experiences working on this production.
Aside from that we get eight minutes of Deleted Scenes and then an additional fourteen minutes of Extended Scenes, menus and chapter stops. Previews for a few unrelated Lionsgate properties play before the main menu screens load. All of the extras on the disc are in full 1080p high definition. A Digital Copy is also included as is an Ultraviolet version of the movie and the Blu-ray case comes housed inside a slipcover featuring identical cover art.
The Last Stand may not have set the box office on fire when it hit theaters early this year but don't let that dismay you. If you're a fan of good old fashioned shoot'em up action movies and enjoy a good dose of humor on stop of your ultra-violence, this is one you won't to miss. Arnold is in fine form here and the supporting cast also does very good work. The movie is stylish without being over stylized and the Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent. Even if this release isn't packed to the gills with extras, there's tons of fun to be had here if you're in the right frame of mind for it. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.