Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Last Stand

The Last Stand is one of the better intentional B-movies probably at least since Robert Rodriguez's satirical Machete. However, the film directed by Kim Ji-woon and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is not much of a parody as one might expect from the promos and trailers, but more an ode and update to the types of action films that Schwarzengger had made earlier in his career.

The movie has some tense bits sprinkled throughout and then explodes in fun chaos at the end. There is bloody carnage, but not with too much extra grittiness that one has come to expect in post-9/11 action movies (such as in recently mentioned films like The Bourne Identity, Batman Begins, Casino Royale). If anything this is a much better success at what I feel Stallone was trying to achieve with his first Expendables movie. It's part camp and then there's still a sense of the modern, especially due to the stylization of the material by its director, Kim Ji-woon. Kim is one of three South Korean new-wave directors to be making an english-language film this year (Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer and Park Chan-wook's Stoker are the other two). I'd be lying if I said I'm surprised Kim has chosen to make an action film in comparison to his fellows taking on what is deemed to be more "serious" material. Then again, it's a great way to perhaps introduce Kim to mainstream Western audiences. His camera constantly stays with the action through long takes such as Cortez's escape down a ziplane or when the same character is driving a fast car through a roadblock. The editing is also very quick and is reminscent of scenes from Kim's previous films the such as the ridiculously fun western The Good, The Bad, The Weird and one of the few revenge films to rival Oldboy, I Saw the Devil.

Something I didn't care for and that could be found in films attributed to Schwarzenegger, is the sudden  attempts at humor as it sometimes fall flat. Examples include Johnny Knoxville's character's antics with guns or even just at the end of the film when Schwarzenegger delivers a punchline and then walks back with his deputies with an "aw shucks" sort of demeanor. Kim has made this sort of humor work in his films before, but here it just felt out of place for me. I think it's not so much because the film can't decide what it wants to be, but because I wasn't sure what I wanted the film to be. A sometimes campy actioneer? A bloody thriller? Something else? Regardless I can say that the a majority of the movie still seemed average as opposed to something that is 100% unique.

Ultimately, the film provides a lot of escapism and most importantly, Schwarzenegger's screen presence hasn't dissipated to as large a degree as one might have thought.

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