The question with “The Last Stand,” Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to the big screen: does he pick up where he left off as an action hero or is it an embarrassment?
The answer falls somewhere in the middle.
Schwarzenegger is Sheriff Ray Owens, who presides over his small, sun-baked Arizona border town like a caring dad. So when it seems most of the city takes off for an away high-school football game, Owens is expecting a quiet weekend, leaving what little there is to do to his inexperienced deputies.
Little does he know that, miles away in Las Vegas, Mexican gangster Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has made a daring escape from federal custody. He is on the lam in a modified Corvette ZR1 and racing toward the border. Cortez, with the help of some his cronies, plans to smuggle himself back into Mexico over a secret bridge his associates have been constructing near Owens' town.
Angry federal agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker), who seems to have had a long obsession with capturing the slippery Cortez, calls to warn Owens that the dangerous felon is headed his way. So it's up to Owens and his ragtag, ad hoc crew — which also includes well-armed town eccentric and comedic relief Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) and ne'er-do-well Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro), the only occupant in the town's tiny jail — to keep Cortez from making his escape to Mexican soil.
South Korean director Jee-woon Kim (“The Good, The Bad, the Weird”; “I Saw the Devil”) keeps things moving quickly. Cortez's breakout on the streets of Vegas at the film's start and a car chase near the end show off a keen visual eye.
That helps distract viewers from the story's outbursts of improbability.
Certainly, Schwarzenegger moves a bit slower than he used to. But he can still deliver the hurt to some bad guys.
That's the main thing anyone going to see this film cares about.