Sommerton Junction is a small town on the American side of the border with Mexico where nothing much happens, and that suits Sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) just fine as it's the quiet life he craves since his past was marred by a police operation which went horribly wrong. Over the next couple of days it will be quieter than usual as most of the locals are travelling to another town to support their football team, so Owens bids farewell to the mayor, who gives him his keys to his sports car and sarcastically tells him to move it if it's in the way, and prepares to relax for a while. However, the best laid plans and all that...
Schwarzenegger's big return to the screen wasn't really, because he'd done a couple of Expendables movies as a taster for his first lead role, this one, since his last outing as a Terminator about ten years before. But while those efforts had seen Ahnold in a brasher mode, here for the most part he was curiously subdued, preferring to play down the more obvious action man elements and try to convince us that here was a fellow who would be happy to oversee some sleepy border town rather than get his hands dirty and beat up the evildoers all in the line of duty of a high tension urban environment.
For the most part, possibly due to his advancing years, he was at least as convincing as a cop looking forward to his nearing retirement as he was a killer cyborg, but that might have been down to Andrew Knauer's sympathetic script. Except of course Arnie was working all out to convince audiences that he still had what it took to make it as an action star in the twenty-first century, as many of his contemporaries were around this time, so much so that the genre of old age shoot 'em ups was becoming recognisable in itself. But for other cineastes, it wasn't so much the star's appearance which mattered, it was the man behind the camera.
Our director was Kim Ji-woon, who had won a worldwide cult following for his particular way with both action and horror. If you were making comparisons, this was closer to his The Good, the Bad, the Weird than his masterpiece I Saw the Devil, only as with many a non-Hollywood director seeking to make the leap to possible American blockbusters, he found the form was motivating him rather than the other way around; more John Woo's Hard Target than Paul Verheoven's Robocop. That said, at least it wasn't an utter disaster, and those with a taste for big, dumb setpieces would find themselves warming to The Last Stand the further it progressed towards them.
The plot took a surprisingly long time in setting up considering it could be summarised as "high speed fugitive must be stopped by smalltown cop", but essentially Mexican drug baron Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) is being transported by the U.S authorities led by FBI man Agent Bannister (Forest Whitaker) only to see their prisoner escape, get into a very fast car, then hightail it to the border where he can find refuge. Complications ensue such as him taking an agent (Genesis Rodriguez) hostage in the passenger seat, and worse than that his buddies show up in Sommerton Junction to ensure he gets through. And they do that by brandishing an artillery of powerful weapons, just to make the odds against Owens and his handful of allies look totally outnumbered - but outgunned? There was a fun cast here, including Luis Guzman as one of the deputies and Peter Stormare trying another accent as Cortez's righthand man, though for too long it was only a couple of shades better than the ho-hum fare Schwarzenegger was in immediately before he chose politics as a second career. Music by Mowg.