“Like riding a bike.”
That old quote suggests something that once learned is difficult to forget. Watching The Last Stand, and more specifically the acting of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first major motion picture starring role -excluding the various small and larger cameo appearances in a handful of films- since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in (gasp!) 2003, one is struck with the fact that acting, indeed, is decidedly not like riding a bike.
At least for Mr. Schwarzenegger.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger I most recall is the one that could be alternately terrifying, charismatic, and even outright humorous in his motion pictures…sometimes even in the context of a single film. Sure, his acting skills are the type that will likely never merit any serious awards, but at his best he could be a very engaging movie presence, one that audiences flocked to in droves.
Then, of course, Mr. Schwarzenegger moved on to politics and, through a unique set of circumstances got himself elected Governor of California. He spent years away from movies and, having finally finished his term, dipped his toe back into acting via small roles in both Expendables movies (the second of which featured a larger role than the blink and you’ll miss him appearance in the first film).
With 2013’s The Last Stand, Mr. Schwarzenegger took front and center in a motion picture and the results…well, they weren’t all that hot. The Last Stand’s box office, given the film was a relatively cheaply budgeted work to begin with, wasn’t all that great, though based on Rotten Tomatoes it maybe/coulda done better (critics and audiences gave the film a near identical rating, 60 and 58% approved).
So, was The Last Stand a worthy re-entry point for Mr. Schwarzenegger?
As I mentioned above, I found the acting of Mr. Schwarzenegger in this film lacking. He reads his lines (even the “funny” ones) in the same dull tone and appears to my eyes unengaged with the material. Given how wildly ridiculous the premise of the film is, this becomes a BIG problem.
The plot of the movie goes as follows: A nasty drug kingpin is boldly broken out of a “high security” Las Vegas prison transport, then heads out of the city in a souped up Corvette, his intention being to drive himself to Mexico and safety. We find that on top of being a high level drug kingpin, he’s also a professional race car driver, so the Feds are quickly overwhelmed in trying to capture him. Indeed, it becomes clear that all that stands in the kingpin’s way to freedom is the small town of Sommerton Junction and Schwarzenegger’s Sheriff Ray Owens and his few companions.
What could have been a tense (though silly) feature moves along as if it were a documentary on building a fence. There is precious little tension, almost no humor, and certainly no feeling of dread. Once the kingpin arrives in the town (after a big shoot out with his minions), our Sheriff pursues the villain in a Camaro for a bit before going mano-a-mano with him. However, given how gifted our villain supposedly was with driving and how he was driving a super souped up Corvette, one wonders how the Sheriff, in a far less powerful car, could somehow catch up to the villain.
In the end, I have to side with the 40 or so percent of critics/audiences who didn’t like The Last Stand. Given the slate of films Mr. Schwarzenneger has coming, one hopes he can get his mojo back. I’d love to see Mr. Schwarzenneger figure out how to ride that bike once again.