Wednesday, May 22, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray debut: Kim Jee-Woon's THE LAST STAND--more fun than you've heard

I've sometimes said that thrillers with three sets of pro/antagonists are usually more fun that those that offer only two (see The Nest or Hostage for a couple of good examples). Well, here comes a movie that features -- count 'em -- four. It's the latest Schwarzenegger vehicle THE LAST STAND, written by newcomer Andrew Knaeur and directed by South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon (shown below). This quartet of good/bad guys/gals ups the ante and makes the movie a lot more interesting (fun, too) than it might have been. Add to this a good cast of supporting players, and you've got a film that ought to have done better at the box-office but will likely find its real legs in the ancillary markets.

The "good" teams are made up of Arnold (and his crew), as the sheriff of a tiny southwestern town, over a weekend in which almost all of that town is off at an "away game" sports event in which its high school team is taking part, and the high-level government team led by Forest Whitaker, which is in the process of moving the fierce head of a drug cartel from one prison to another.

The bad guys are, of course, that head cartel guy and his "helper" and a team of "experts" sent ahead to the sleepy little community to set up the escape. These four groups are generally in four different places throughout the film, with one set desperately trying to halt the work of one of the others.

As the poster atop indicates, this would appear to be a movie with lots of action and shoot-em ups. If this is what you want, you won't be disappointed. There's an especially speedy car (above) in the mix, a nice escape via magnetic hold, and some shoot-outs that are actually exciting and fun because Mr. Kim knows how to film action scenes so that we can follow along -- and on tenterhooks.

Yet within all this, there is also a nice sense of community and people banding together to do what they must. When one of them is killed, in fact, the loss and pain registers much more strongly than in most films of this genre. There are the usual funny lines (our villain -- played by Eduardo Noriega, above -- calling Schwarzenegger "abuelito" is one of the best) and some nice character work from Johnny Knoxville as the town's weirdo.

I don't want to overpraise this movie. At 107 minutes, there are some slight longueurs. Nonetheless, laboring outside his native land, Kim does a more than creditable job with both the action and the quieter scenes. For the most part, The Last Stand works just fine as a throwaway good time -- with some very nice set pieces that will keep you glued to the screen.

The Last Stand, from Lionsgate, hit the street yesterday on DVD and Blu-ray, for sale and rental by the usual suspects.

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