What happens when a completely idiotic escape plan comes face-to-face with an unexpectedly tough sheriff of a small American frontier town armed with every possible scripting convenience? Simple: completely mindless fun that I’m ashamed to say I enjoyed. Lie. shame nothing because The last challengea feature that marks the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the spotlight after just over seven years as governor of California, also marks a kind of return to the type of film that marked his career in the 80s, that is, that nonsense that is , end to end, irresistible.
And no, the film directed by South Korean Jee-woon Kim (from Fear and I Saw the Devil) is no big deal. On the contrary, he has one of those scripts that he can’t even ask to suspend disbelief, because suspending is not enough. What has to be done, here, is to throw her mercilessly out the window of a high-rise building, so completely imbecile is Andrew Knauer’s job in creating an escape situation for the big boss of the Mexican drug cartel Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega ) with a tuned-up Corvette in the middle of the southern US desert that requires gigantic gymnastics to make any minimum of sense, all so that the great villain is forced to cross the peaceful little town of Sommerton Junction, Arizona, where the law is the Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) who is there to live out a kind of retirement while working that, have no doubt, hides his past as a big-shot LAPD.
Between catchphrases with no effect, supporting actors playing generically archetypal characters – the brave policewoman, the trigger-happy bum, the hesitant but efficient Mexican and the court jester owner of a comically convenient arsenal -, a very affected sub-villain lived by Peter Stormare and an incompetent FBI agent inexplicably played by the great Forest Whitaker, the film goes on and on, laughing more and more in the face of the spectator who has to accept all the logic-defying barbarities that are thrown on the screen. But it is precisely because it is so classically an “80s brucutu movie”, with Schwarzenegger really making an effort to return to the type of character that made him famous, and because the director knows how to deal with action sequences that range from moments à la Fast and furious until a frank and, I would say, surprisingly raw fight between Owens and Cortez, that the feature ends up working in the lame way we expect from a work like this.
It’s like a potpourri anything we’ve seen before, including Schwarzenegger himself. The familiarity with each step of the story is such that any spectator who is minimally knowledgeable about action films conceived exclusively as vehicles for their stars will sing the stones of each event during the 107 minutes of duration, no matter how relevant it is to the plot. Everything is chewed up in the most didactic way possible, like, for example, right at the beginning of the projection, the mayor hands over the keys to his red Camaro to the sheriff and then the same sheriff visits the crazy local, basically played by Johnny Knoxville playing himself, in which we learn that he is a collector of assorted deadly trebuchets (including, in a reference I love, the sword of none other than Conan the Barbarian🇧🇷 Again, it’s part of the game to point at the screen and say truisms like “ah, the sheriff will use the big car to chase the bad guy at the end” or “ah, the sheriff will use Dirty Harry’s gun to finish off a punk” and , of course, “wow, look at Conan’s sword!!!”, while rolling our eyes in disbelief at how ridiculously basic everything is.
The last challenge it’s 80’s action in the vein of a star from the same decade trying to find himself and rise again long after his last truly sensational film. It’s not an easy task, especially for someone who pulled away from Hollywood to get into politics for so long, but if there’s one thing Schwarzenegger always promised, it was that he would come back. And he came back.
The Last Stand (USA/South Korea, 2013)
Direction: jee-woon kim
Road map: Andrew Knauer
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez, Daniel Henney, Tait Fletcher, John Patrick Amedori
Duration: 107 min.