This poster may be the best thing about The Last Stand. Click to enlarge.
  • This poster may be the best thing about The Last Stand. Click to enlarge.
When compared to, say, Broken City, The Last Stand is a kind of decent action movie. This is January, after all, and pretty much every new release has to be seen with a thick pair of beer goggles in order to be enjoyed at all. But the truth is, when you strip away the January movie-dump context, it's just groaningly generic, a half-assed modern-day Rio Bravo riff where the evil drug lord bad guy is unstoppable because he's got a bitchin' Camaro and he's not afraid to use it.

The only reason The Last Stand is at all noteworthy is that it's Arnold Schwarzenegger's first solo starring action role since his unfortunate turn into politics a few years back. He's saggier, leatherier, and less self-aware than he used to be, but The Last Stand is a successful bit of rebranding for the aging action star. He's less boastful, and he has a satisfying stillness about him that he never used to demonstrate back when every bloated muscle was quivering with steroidal energy. Schwarzenegger is a small-town sheriff who, for a bunch of dumb reasons, winds up being the last thing standing between the stunt-driving drug lord's Camaro and the Mexican border. He gathers a team of misfits around him and prepares for...the last stand.

Like Rio Bravo, much of The Last Stand is waiting. The problem is that there's nothing worth waiting for. Forest Whitaker is the inept FBI agent who keeps letting the drug lord escape from his road blocks. Luis Guzman plays Schwartzenegger's hapless, cowardly sidekick. (I'm a big Guzman fan from way back, but he's gotten to the point with his hammy acting now where I want to smack him around and tell him to grow some pride.) Johnny Knoxville, in some especially unfortunate timing, plays a gun nut who has an illegal collection of WMDs. The way he names his guns and treats them like loving human babies is more than a little unsettling in the current political climate, but luckily he's less of a supporting character and more of an extended cameo, so the gun-worship doesn't completely tip the movie into unwatchability. The Last Stand finally snaps to attention in the last half hour, when director Jee-woon Kim demonstrates some visual inventiveness. It's not worth the wait, but it's something.