Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is sentenced to death. He, uh, did stuff. We’re never sure what, just that to be sent to death row, he will need to be transported to a different facility wherein the FBI only has 45 seconds (yes seconds) to plan the move.
Yes, Last Stand is stupid.
This is not an enjoyable type of stupid, but a relentlessly, draining type of utter idiocy that the audience is supposed to soak up and let pass. Last Stand’s barrage of gunfights batter the screen with bullets, shot at low level Sommerton officers who exist on the level of Keystone Cops. They find open doors impenetrable, moseying around crime scenes without a clue as to general procedures, yet become surefire assaulters when under the gun. Cortez stocks an improbable roster of men willing to die for his cause, the type who wear dark masks as to not see their face. Last Stand can repeatedly wipe out the same gunner without the audience being any wiser.
Starring here is Arnold Schwarzenegger, back into the action fold, albeit with a wink at the lens. Blistering violence sends digital mayhem and blood packs streaking into the sky, alarmingly high levels of splattering bodies for a film so intent on making us laugh. Arnold’s smirking, snickering small town sheriff makes a point of gunning for Cortez, a villain who for most of his time speeds through exposition in an advertisement for Corvette.
Last Stand is loud and abrasive without accomplishing much for it. Hackneyed scripting limps into existence with stock scenarios that appear to paying heed to paper thin gun-a-thons of the ’80s, while avoiding their kitschy elements. Schwarzenegger’s return knows how ludicrous the scenario is without camping up the material, instead falling back on a ditzy loon, Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville). The film is bulging from its obnoxious (and knowingly) dopey frame, washing over the dramatic swatches that force legitimacy where it does not belong.
Imagine an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where loveable Barney Fife is gunned down on the streets. That is the angle Last Stand is coming from, albeit with vivacious language choices. Action comedies, at their best, work between the lines of loss and laughs. This script from first time studio writer Andrew Knauer never figures out where that should be.
Last Stand closes – after the wackiness of Dinkum can be dropped from the script – with Arnold and his foe roughing each other up on a green screened bridge. That is probably what audiences wanted, to see the aging action star cram his rough & tumble attitude into a young punk’s midsection. That leaves the finality of the story on a high note, plentiful bodyslams and suplexes in tow for those needing reassurance as to Schwarzenegger’s physical condition. It merely takes ages to get there, plentiful FBI agents swiping at implausibly massive screens, and arduous levels of gunfire.
A digitally captured action flick that pulls in the weight of the Arri Alexa, Last Stand will drop incredible black levels onto the screen, creating night sky with zero gray. This is pure, full black from the beginning. Shadow detail is typically preserved, lost only in already low light conditions. Counteracting is a generous contrast, working in the southern sunlight to bake brightness into the frame. No loss of fine detail is noted.
Last Stand’s troubles are digital in nature though. Sequences in the FBI war room carry an artificial smoothness that works counter to the purity of the definition found elsewhere. Faces appear plastic, working against the visuals for no discernible reason. Source cinematography falls out of balance with itself, and a noisy shot inside a police vehicle is a jarring departure from the cleanliness of shots elsewhere.
Cue up too some disheartening palette choices in the timing phase, blasting scenes in Sommerton with an appreciable orange hue that pleases, crushing color fidelity elsewhere with low appeal orange and teal. Blue haze forces flesh tones into pale grays, which even under fire from overhead florescents is aggressive.
The savior will be fidelity, which these high-resolution images produce. Mild hints of banding are the only gaffes that allow the AVC encode to show, leaving the screen free to fill up on facial and environmental definition. While still on the inconsistent side, sharpness is enough to pass through generous helpings of extensive fidelity. Tightness is superlative.
Last Stand comes equipped with a DTS-HD audio presentation that rocks the film to life thanks to a dazzling display of LFE from a Corvette engine. It spins and pans, all the while lighting up the low-end with force. Gunfire is equally forced into the mix, a long barreled revolver a shock edit that wakes up the audience member drying up from the exposition.
Every shoot-out, and Last Stand is prolific with them, sends bullets scanning overhead and strongly into the stereos. Mixing is unusually – in a positive way – focused on the sides, working with dialogue transitions and small sound effects, in addition to the hail of bullets. Cars too whip around the entirety of the soundfield.
A menagerie of explosions, flipped cars, and chases push the limits of audio mixing to a pleasant extreme. This is balanced aggression, aware of each channel as fights get underway. Even with the heavy-on-bass gunfire, Last Stand’s end chase through a cornfield is astounding. A cornfield sets up to host the drivers, their interiors and exteriors blasted by stalks with exceptional use of all five channels to seat the listener in the middle. Great mixing that is superior to the material.
Lionsgate offers no extras for Schwarzenegger’s return vehicle aside from trailers.