The town of Jericho is not the place you visit, it's the kind of place you travel through on the way to somewhere else. With its population dwindling, the only residents are those who have a connection to the two criminal gangs which exist there, one Italian Mafia, the other Irish, but when the man calling himself John Smith (Bruce Willis) was passing along the main street in his car, fleeing from trouble in his past, his eye was caught by a woman (Karina Lombard) walking in front of him. The gangsters with her noticed this and start vandalising said car, telling him he should contact the Sheriff (Bruce Dern) over there if he has a problem, but when he does, the lawman tells him to let it go...
However, John Smith, if that is his real name (and we don't find out if it is or not), is not about to let this humiliation go unchecked because he has encountered bullies before and finds it is better to gun them down in the street like dogs than to allow them to carry on their antisocial behaviour with others after him. So that's what he does, claiming first blood in a battle that will see him pit the Italians and Irish against one another with a view to firstly, rescuing the lovely lady he has seen in the road, and secondly, getting rid of them because his encounter with them makes up his mind the world is better off without such lowlifes. Sounds familiar? It's true, you may have seen this tale before.
It began life as Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest, which really entered the realm of cinema when Akira Kurosawa adapted it, uncredited, for his samurai movie Yojimbo which went down very well with international audiences, and in turn that was adapted, uncredited, by Sergio Leone for his breakthrough effort A Fistful of Dollars, which if anything went down even better with the global moviegoers. For some reason director Walter Hill, who could claim a fairly substantial cult following himself, thought the time was right mid-nineteen-nineties to make a new version, combining elements of all those three previous incarnations to fashion a smorgasbord of these classic influences in one.
Did lightning strike once again and the box office tills were set a-ringing around the planet? Er, no, Last Man Standing was one of those three big budget flops from New Line in 1996 that proved to them their endeavours to move from being an indie into a major was not going to be as simple as they had hoped - presumably they thanked their lucky stars when they secured the rights to The Lord of the Rings shortly after. Star Bruce Willis did not seem too bothered, he more or less cruised onwards with his "pay me and I won't care either way" attitude, but the supporting cast deserved better, littered as it was with cult names and "that guy" actors (out of the actresses, only Leslie Mann went on to a more prestigious career, Lombard settled into television appearances and Alexandra Powers saw her career peter out with plenty of roles making little impression).
Really this was an excuse to see a bunch of hardmen shoot each other, and Hill's methods of presenting action sequences remained as muscular and visceral as ever, yet you could understand why at the time audiences who saw this wondered, was that it? Shouldn't there be more to this? Essentially a Western, the project's updating of the setting to the early twentieth century did not fool anyone, which begged the question, why not just make a Western anyway, to which the answer would be, because that was A Fistful of Dollars. With the movie already seeming redundant before the end credits had finished, its superfluity was plain, but there was a decent atmosphere of lawlessness and danger among the clogging dust that appealed to a growing band of cultists as the film's, er, standing was raised down the years. Most were unconvinced this was underrated, and Smith's presence did look as if the two gangs would have wiped each other out regardless of his machinations, but as a time passer it was adequate, if stylish. Crunchy music by Ry Cooder.