The Last Stand is a new American neo-western High Noon meets Fast and The Furious, Arnie action vehicle that while entertaining enough is padded with pointless side characters and suffers greatly in its logic. This is OK however as for guilty fun it ticks all the boxes whilst stylishly dispatching the baddies. Arnie is in pretty great form and the rapport he has with his rag-tag deputized team is affable and humorous. I digress however, this is 2013, the wave of action films of characters with overblown purpose and rebooted nonsense that drags the film down has come to pass, we are back to the ‘80’s film’ of blockbuster enjoyment. This is all well and good but it also feels like something of a regression. Not satiated to have my cake and eat it too, I simply must refer to the director of The Last Stand and his massive impact in the past, leading up to this passable and thus disappointing action flick today.
Kim Jee-woon was part of the Korean new wave of directors, enhanced by a Hollywood obsession but culturally distinctive to their vision. Directors like Kim and pioneers such as Kim Ki-duk and Bong Joon-ho created extremely original and stylish films with heart and mind, possessing a keen sense of direction and balance. Kim was perhaps the most commercial of the lot, crafting Kubrickian genre tales from the western with The Good, The Bad and The Weird to gangster parables with A Bittersweet Life and horror with A Tale of Two Sisters. His last feature in South Korea, sadly reminds me of John Woo’s last masterpiece before he went to America and became lackluster. Kim’s I Saw The Devil is an extreme violent thriller, in its unyielding nihilism and original vision I have never seen a film like it. It has done for thrillers what Woo’s Hard Boiled did for action and I doubt it will be topped anytime soon.
Having loved all of Kim’s films I was expecting the auteur’s touch in The Last Stand. I was frankly flat-out disappointed by what I saw. His style is barely there, a few clever camera tricks and one major set-piece are just not good enough. Nothing in The Last Stand is anywhere near the cathartic levels of violence and other genre elements masterfully employed in his works. Looking at it as a reboot for Arnie I can understand the films point, but frankly anybody could have directed The Last Stand, I am perplexed why it had to be Kim Jee-Woon.
Perhaps his next feature will attest to his incredible skill as a ground-breaking force in genre. I damn well hope so as western audiences have seen nothing yet.
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton Twitter here: @Kwenton
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.