(US - 2013)
Directed by Kim Jee-woon. Written by Andrew Knauer. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, Eduardo Noriega, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez, Harry Dean Stanton, Daniel Henney, Christiana Leucas, Rio Alexander, John Patrick Amedori. (R, 106 mins)
As much a review as an autopsy after a disastrous opening weekend that saw it land in tenth place, THE LAST STAND marks Arnold Schwarzegger's first starring role since 2003's TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES. And it doesn't appear that many people care. Grossing just $6 million, this is easily Arnold's worst opening and there's any number of reasons why. Wrong month, bad marketing (ads closer to the release date played up the comedy angle with co-star Johnny Knoxville), Arnold's dirty laundry being aired, or that memoir where he didn't seem to portray himself all that well. Or "the kids" just aren't interested in him or the adults were all seeing ZERO DARK THIRTY. Maybe these action vets only do well in EXPENDABLES situations where there's a bunch of them. Jason Statham is about one box-office dud away from going straight to DVD. And it'll be interesting to see what happens with Sylvester Stallone's BULLET TO THE HEAD and Bruce Willis' A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD in the coming weeks. Or, for that matter, Arnold's proposed new CONAN sequel. And Stallone and Arnold are teaming up in the prison thriller THE TOMB, due out in the fall. THE LAST STAND is a lot of fun until it fumbles badly in a crucial point--more on that in a bit--but overall, it's a blast and it's great to see Arnold kicking ass on the big screen again. Sure, maybe he's a shitty husband, but I honestly expected him to get a warmer reception than barely cracking the top ten.
I SAW THE DEVIL (2010). It's an unlikely endeavor for Kim, but he brings an energetic sense of style and obvious enthusiasm to the film, from an imaginative car chase in a corn field to the violent showdowns in the streets of Sommerton Junction. His handling of the actors is good, considering he doesn't speak English. Where Kim--or the visual effects team--really botches the job is in the final confrontation between Owens and Cortez on the bridge. To this point, the film has shown seamless and conservatively utilized CGI and practical visuals--the explosions and car wrecks look mostly real, the blood looks wet--but this showdown is a disaster. Maybe the sequence was a hastily-assembled reshoot, but the greenscreen is bush-league, nothing in the scene--from the bridge to the landscape to even the actors--looks real. I'm not even entirely convinced Schwarzenegger and Noriega were there at the same time or even there at all. When we first see Arnold standing on the bridge, he's digitally composited into the shot so badly that his image seems to be hovering on top of the frame and his body isn't even the correct scale to the size of the bridge. The whole sequence is shockingly and inexcusably sloppy, and doesn't even look finished. How are professional filmmakers and visual effects teams still screwing up greenscreen and CGI? It's 2013 and for the most part (unless it's by design--say, SIN CITY or SUCKER PUNCH), when it's used to simulate a "real" setting, this shit still isn't ready for prime-time. Get some crew people together and drive the actors to a bridge and shoot the scene. Enough is enough.
|The film's more recent one-sheet, emphasizing |
the comedy element and, for some reason,
third-billed Johnny Knoxville.