Review | <i>The Last Stand</i>

With The Last Stand, you get what you pay for – and what you're paying for is the epic return of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a lead role.

The movie is big, it's loud and it's full of plenty of exciting car chases and shootouts. If that's not your thing, then The Last Stand probably isn’t for you. But it's exactly the movie the trailers promise, and there's plenty here for fans of franchises like The Fast and the Furious and The Expendables.

Although Schwarzenegger has returned to Hollywood, it's clear he's not pretending he was never gone. What's nice about The Last Stand is that it pokes fun at the Governator's aging status by giving him a backstory suitable to one of the greatest on-screen action heroes of all time. Sheriff Ray Owens might be a small-town cop, but in his heyday he was one of the baddest officers on the Los Angeles police force. That's why he’s more than capable when he's called upon to make a stand against an escaped cartel leader barreling down U.S. Route 95 toward the Mexican border.

Too easy for Schwarzenegger in his returning role? Maybe, but the man has something to prove, and he does just that. The Last Stand shows that while he's now 65, Schwarzenegger is still as great of an action hero as ever. He has a fair share of bad-ass scenes that aren't teased in the trailer, which means fans are in for a treat.

Of course, The Last Stand wouldn't work if it relied solely on Schwarzenegger. Director Kim Jee-Woon and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura bring together a strong supporting cast for Schwarzenegger made up of lesser-known actors, and they all complement the star. Although Johnny Knoxville has received a lot of press for The Last Stand, it's Luis Guzman who really clicks with Schwarzenegger, and the two have some of the best chemistry in the movie. Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro and Zach Gilford all turn in strong performances as well.

As far as story goes, there's a nice balance between the storyline that follows escaped crime lord Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noreiga) as he flies down 95 in his stolen Corvette C6 ZR1 and the one that follows Schwarzenegger and his crew in Sommerton Junction. The characters are developed just as much as they need to be, which is better for the movie as a whole. Alexander and Santoro's love story is teased, Schwarzenegger's history is lightly explained, and all that needs to be said of Noreiga's Cortez is that he's a cartel leader.

It's exciting to see Jee-Woon make his English-speaking debut in The Last Stand. The South Korean director made an impact on audiences with his I Saw the Devil and The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and some of his style definitely shows through. Fortunately di Bonaventura tempers the project with his American blockbuster flair, making The Last Stand ultimately be a nice mix of both styles.

Let's be clear: The Last Stand is a fun movie, but not a great one. It ranks in the Expendables class of exciting and action-packed popcorn fare, but doesn't really transcend that. Fortunately there's a place for that in Hollywood, and if that's the type of film you're looking for, then The Last Stand is definitely worth your time.

The Last Stand opens Friday nationwide.

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