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Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

The Last Stand

Arnold is Back from Politics

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The Governator's still got "it"—the intangible factor drawing viewers to connect with his bold action persona. Once an A-list Hollywood star, this three-time Terminator famously traded his star power for political power in Sacramento, only to learn that running California is a box office stinker.

Following the election of Jerry Brown, Schwarzenegger starred in a love-child scandal that was followed by divorce from Maria Shriver. Naysayers predicted Arnie would never "be back," but like so many before them, they underestimated his broad shoulders. While The Last Stand is a somewhat flat actioner, Arnie's got two more films in post-production and two others in preproduction. At 65, rather than slowing down, he appears to be speeding up.

In addition to starring Schwarzenegger as world-weary bordertown sheriff, Ray Owens, the film also relies on the shock value of a 1000-plus horsepower Corvette ZR1, capable of exceeding 200 miles per hour.

The silly script, helmed by Korean director Kim Jee-woon, occasionally hits its comic stride, but never fails to go for the gusto during its action sequences. The director's most glaring fault is his failure to create tension. The film lacks any major twist, roaring straight ahead as though it can't get where it's going fast enough—a miscalculation given a supporting cast that includes Luis Guzman's lazy and opinionated deputy, Forrest Whitaker's know-it-all FBI Agent, Peter Stormare's ranting villain and Eduardo Noriega's druglord oozing playboy charm.

The story, thrown together to accommodate its action set pieces, revolves around a Mexican kingpin's well-funded effort to evade the prosecution in the States. His daring escape in a souped up Corvette, will take the druglord from Los Angeles to a small, Arizona bordertown, in record time. The criminal's main problem comes in the form of Sheriff Ray Owens, who refuses to roll over and play nice.

The film mistakenly believes that the more bombastic each step of the bad guy's plan, the more fascinated we'll be. This might be true if that plan also made sense, or if the film was based on a comic book.

Even if it's been a decade since Arnie's last starring role, he's still cooler than any car, and it's his engine we want the film to rev.

Home Movies/DVD & Blu-ray


  • The Duelists
Director Ridley Scott was only a few years from shaping perceptions of the future with Alien and Blade Runner when he debuted with a movie about the past, The Duelists (1977). Starring Harvey Keitel as a maniacal Napoleonic officer and Keith Carradine as the colleague drawn into years of inconclusive duels over a “fine point of honor,” Scott endows Joseph Conrad’s story with haunting visuals through gorgeous cinematography, seen for the first time on Blu-ray.
  • Detropia

With factory closed and unions marginalized, Detroit’s blue-collar middle class shriveled and the city shrank. In their beautifully impressionist documentary, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady show a city of ruins picked at by scavengers, of urban lots returning to prairie and blocks of empty homes amidst the debris and the dollar stores. Bright points: The GM bailout saved a remnant of Detroit’s working class and the real estate bust has drawn artists to the city looking for cheap lofts. Detropia is a moving examination of urban—and national—decline.

  • Samsara

A leisurely, elegantly edited montage of images of nature and humanity from many continents, Samsara is filmed in striking 70mm. At times, Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson’s documentary threatens tedium despite its beauty, yet the flow—from Buddhist lamaseries, Gothic cathedrals and Shanghai skyscrapers, to cascading waterfalls—often results in meaningful juxtapositions. A firearms factory in the U.S. cuts from painted and nose-boned African warriors to a T-shirted American family—both tribes heavily armed.

—David Luhrssen

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