Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Comeback for Schwarzenegger...

 A Comeback for Arnold Schwarzenegger
(Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate)
"You know age 65 - the age doesn't mean anything to me because I mean, I work out every day, I work out twice a day, as a matter of fact, with weights in the evening and in the morning, I do cardiovascular training," Schwarzenegger said. "So to me, to get on the set and to swing the sword again and to ride the horses ... I feel like you know, I'm 30 years old. As long as you stay in shape, that's the key thing and to keep the body young ... even though you do feel the pain when you wipe out and do your fight scene." ---Arnold Schwarzenegger
We Americans love "comebacks". This past Saturday night, I attended the "The Last Stand", the Arnold Schwarzenegger film that has been promoted, with panache, since the middle of last summer. It's difficult for me to recall a film promoted so many months in advance, and I'll admit it. The execution of this film's release led me to buy a ticket. How were the producers, the director, the writers and cast going to approach the first full length motion picture of Schwarzenegger in a decade? 
(Image Courtesy of Lionsgate)
As fascinating as "comebacks" are in film (and in life), to belabor the obvious, each has a unique set of circumstances to overcome. Arnold Schwarzenegger has had a career that is astonishing, and in recent years, challenging and complicated. His return to film after a ten-year absence is the sole focus of this blog post.
A successful comeback, in film, occurs after an audience embraces an actor's humility ahead of a performance. Herein lies a tremendous risk. At the core of this comedy-action-drama, that risk was addressed with brazen honesty, backed by confidence. Next, came a dose of self-effacing humor by Schwarzenegger, relative to his age as part of the script. This too is risky. However, South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon's American film debut establishes early on that we are living in 2013, and his lead actor is not attempting to be "Conan The Barbarian" from 1982. To this end, "The Last Stand" achieved the authenticity that dignifies a comeback in film. And for a packed theater of movie goers last Saturday, this quality won the night. It is the comments overheard at the exit door of the theater that often makes a case for success or failure. "I liked it" and "That was fun", were repeated often. Director Kim Jee-Woon, Schwarzenegger and the cast hit their mark--and this was what I came to see. However, there are the film critics who remind us that there are challenges to overcome in every story. 
The ingredients of self-effacing humor, plenty of action, drama and a good film crew is no shield from criticism. Ask FOX News critic, Justin Craig, who panned the film as a "a dumbed down, mutated, contemporary version of the western classic “High Noon.”   
In all fairness, I studied "High Noon" in a college film class, and I understand the  comparison Craig is making. While there was no 12 Noon "deadline" in this film, the on screen date-stamping of events over 24-hours presumably drew that remark. It's a fact that no real-time pure Western staged in 2013 is possible. However, in both films, there are bad guys heading toward towns filled with innocent people as part of the plot. 
In "The Last Stand" we have a drug lord who has escaped federal custody, attempting to flee into Mexico through a small border town in Arizona called Summerton Junction. That's where Schwarzenegger, a former LAPD narcotics detective, has retired. As a small town Sheriff, he now has trouble on his hands with an outgunned, inexperienced police force facing a caravan of dangerous, high tech felons heading his way. Justin Craig's reference to "High Noon" is admittedly clever, but I'll hold to my original point. While this film is hardly Oscar material, the larger story surrounding "The Last Stand" is Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback. To this point, Associated Press critic Christy Lemire makes the following observation.
"The Last Stand' is the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie you didn't even realize you wanted to see. This is the action superstar's first leading role in a decade, having left acting to serve as the governor of California and whatnot, and while it may not have occurred to you to miss him during that time, it's still surprisingly good to see him on the big screen again", she says. Then there is Schwarzenegger himself at the red carpet premiere.
 (Photo Courtesy of Bauer-Griffin LLC)
Johnny Knoxville, Jaime Alexander and Arnold Schwarzenegger

"What is surprising is the reception that I've gotten, coming back into the movies," said Schwarzenegger. "People are genuinely excited about me being back, and I'm very happy about that because you never know. You never know. So I'm very appreciative. My career has been like a story book. It's beyond belief, and I've accomplished all my dreams and much more, and it's only because I'm in America. This is the greatest country in the world."

Johnny Knoxville is cast as a small town miscreant who provides comic relief, with Forest Whitaker as the leader of an elite FBI tactical squad. Schwarzenegger credits actress Jaimie Alexander for her dramatic performance. Luis Guzman rounds out the small town cast with Chris Browning and Zach Gilford.  


This is an uncomplicated and straightforward escapist film. It is also a "comeback".


Glenn Bishop "Bish The Magish" said...

Nice Post Michael,

I have been looking forward to this movie and it is nice to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back making movies again.


Michael Manning said...

Hi Glenn: Sometimes, we all need an escape film, and this fits the bill.

Stephen Hayes said...

As usual you write with passion and clarity and I might just see this movie, but I'll probably wait until I can get it On Demand.

Michael Manning said...

Hi Stephen! Thanks for the kind words. My focus was strictly on film, and for a guy who has been absent for a decade, it was inspiring to see how he approached his return.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I am not a big fan of action movies, but it is interesting to see him making a comeback.

Michael Manning said...

Lisa: Very much so. Thanks for stopping by!

Martini said...

I feel silly in that I've never heard of The Last Stand. However, I know Arnie is making a film-comeback and I'm very excited about that. Although his movies are pretty silly, they are FUN. Some of my best memories growing up were his movies, along with Harrison Ford.

Michael Manning said...

Hi Martini: This is a new film, all in good fun. Harrison Ford movies are great too! Good to hear from you!

Gypsy Butterfly said...

Hi Michael,
It's great that Arnold is back in movies. When he first was in movies years ago, I had a crush on him!
I also think it's wonderful that he still keeps his body in top shape.

Michael Manning said...

Morning, Lydia:

Yes, Arnold and Sly Stallone are committed to serious work outs. This role involved "The Underdog", and was fun. :)