So this is what California governors do when they retire? Not exactly. You’ve got to be connected to be invited to act in a dumb action comedy like The Last Stand, the second release of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-Sacramento golden years — if we count the two Expendables as one movie, which is being generous. Not every ex-guv qualifies. Gray Davis, Pete Wilson, and George Deukmejian should probably not waste time waiting for that phone call. Only the Terminator could think of his political career as a six-year vacation from Hollywood.
Instead of appearing on Meet the Press or stinking up fairways with his cigars, Arnie portrays Ray Owens, sheriff of Sommerton Junction, Arizona, a peaceful but vigilant burg on the Mexican border. Everyone in town packs a piece, even the little old lady who runs the gift shop. That’s why it’s a bad idea for Gabriel Cortez (Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega), third-generation generalissimo of a Mexican drug cartel, to pick Sommerton as the spot to cross back over to Mexico after he escapes FBI custody in Las Vegas. Sheriff Ray has a secret weapon: Lewis Dinkum, a junkyard owner played by Johnny Knoxville, governor of the Jackass franchise. True to form, Dinkum pulls stupid stunts like climbing a sawed-off utility pole that’s hanging by a live wire, while wearing a Mongolian helmet in the middle of a firefight.
The Last Stand is directed by Kim Jee-woon, Korean helmer of I Saw the Devil, a shocker, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird, a playful riff on spaghetti westerns. His Arnie project — written, rewritten, and supervised by three clowns — is slapdash even at its most coherent (except for a nice car chase in a field of dry corn) but may still be a step forward for Kim. How else would he get to hang out with the guy who delivers the movie’s best line? To the undocumented cartel brat, Sheriff Ray declares: “You’re giving us immigrants a bad name.” That settles that. Next issue, please.