Doug's Take: 'The Last Stand' is a (mostly) welcome return for Schwarzenegger

Published: Friday, Jan. 18 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the sheriff of a small Arizona town who takes on a drug lord in "The Last Stand."

Photo credit: Merrick Morton, Merrick Morton

"THE LAST STAND" — ★★★ — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzmán, Zach Gilford, Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro; R (strong, bloody violence throughout, strong language); in general release

In a movie years ago, an action icon uttered the legendary phrase, "I'll be back."

Well, believe me, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back.

Starring as rural county sheriff Ray Owens, Schwarzenegger delivers a vintage performance as the last line of defense for his sleepy, little border town.

What could possibly go wrong when the town is all but vacated as the townsfolk head for the state football championship game? Well, some strangers roll into town and Ray senses something's not right. If this is feeling like the plot of a bunch of old, classic Westerns, you are right on track.

It seems the "strangers" are there to help facilitate the escape into Mexico by Gabriel Cortez, a notorious drug kingpin played by Eduardo Noriega, who has made a spectacular escape in Las Vegas.

Forest Whittaker, as FBI Agent Bannister, knows Cortez is headed for the border, but which route will he take? Nobody believes the path will lead to Sheriff Owens' jurisdiction.

Wow, are they wrong.

When the picture finally becomes clear, there's no time to reinforce good, old Ray before everything comes to a head. The sheriff and his rag-tag deputies are on their own.

Unlike the old Westerns, we're not waiting for the train to roll into town. We're waiting for a souped-up Corvette. But just like the old Westerns, our sheriff is not the rube he's thought to be. It seems Ray was a seasoned, elite L.A. cop who left the streets of the big city after too much violence and too much blood.

Speaking of blood, "The Last Stand" is dripping with it, violence to such an excess that it becomes cartoonish. It's embarrassing, and you can't help but laugh. But let's get back to the plot.

Like every old Western, you have to include a town "character" or side-kick. Enter Johnny Knoxville, who is bizarrely delightful as Dinkum, known to the locals as not only peculiar, but armed to the teeth. As the sheriff assesses his assets for the upcoming battle, he deputizes Dinkum and acquires an amazing arsenal. The stage is set for the big showdown.

Every cliché you can think of is included in this film along with every stereotype. The stiff delivery of cheesy Arnold lines pepper the plot and, of course, the FBI is made to look ridiculous. No wonder this movie is so much fun.

Believe me, "The Last Stand" is not great cinema and it won't be winning Academy Awards, but it's old school, Arnold-style entertainment and a guilty pleasure.

"The Last Stand" is rated R for strong, bloody violence throughout, strong language; running time: 107 minutes.

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