I’ll be back pain

Is it still too soon to make a joke about <i>Kindergarten Cop</i>?

Is it still too soon to make a joke about Kindergarten Cop?

Rated 2.0

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to starring roles with The Last Stand, a fledgling film that falls somewhere in the middle of the Arnie canon. It’s not a totally bad effort, but it’s not anything to get all that excited about, either.

That’s right, Arnold is back, murdering the English language with his own special brand of finesse and refusing to take his top off. He needs a little more time of the HGH to kick in so he can take off his shirt, Stallone-style!

Arnie plays Ray Owens, sheriff of a small town near the Mexican border. When stopping into a local diner to have some coffee, he notices one of the patrons is played by Peter “Where is pancakes house?” Stormare (the actor who put Steve Buscemi through the wood-chipper in Fargo). Ray correctly assesses that this guy means trouble, and bad things begin to happen.

A drug cartel baddie named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) has busted out of a U.S. prison and is racing towards Ray’s town in an incredibly fast Corvette, attempting to cross the border. The Stormare character is part of a team sent in advance to make sure conditions are clear for crossing, which means shooting the occasional farmer brandishing a shotgun. The angry farmer is played by—you guessed it—Harry Dean Stanton.

Ray has “seen things” in his past L.A. cop days, so he’s prepared for a good fight. His deputies include the wet-behind-the-ears newbie (Zach Gilford), the hot girl deputy (Jaimie Alexander), and another cop played by Luis Guzman, who, like Stanton, always seems to show up in movies like this.

The same can be said for Johnny Knoxville, who once again finds himself playing the wily comic relief in a “sheriff takes a stand” movie. It’s something he also did, to relatively little success, with The Rock in Walking Tall. He’s basically in this movie to wear kooky hats and make funny faces. I have come to the decision that I do not enjoy Knoxville on screen unless he’s being struck in the gonads by a charging bull or run over by a buffalo herd.

Director Jee-woon Kim offers up some great car chases—including an especially good one in a dried out corn field—some decent explosions, and lots of cartoon violence. A standout gory moment occurs when Knoxville shoots somebody with a flare gun. The film is never boring, and gets some good grades for its action content.

As for the plot, it feels much like a movie you’ve seen before, like the aforementioned Walking Tall, or even Cop Land, which starred a somber Sly Stallone as a lonely sheriff taking a stand against corruption. Stallone played that role when his career took a dip, and he was looking to change up his image and get a vocational jumpstart.

As we now know, Stallone didn’t get things swinging again until he played Rocky and Rambo as old guys. I’m thinking Schwarzenegger won’t see his career really spark up again until some of his future slate comes to fruition. That future slate includes a new Terminator, a shirtless, older Conan the Barbarian with saggy man tits, and a sequel to Twins.

On a purely performance level, this probably contains Arnie’s best acting yet. He has a few moments when it almost seems like he knows how to actually act rather than just blow things up or punch people. I guess nearly two decades in politics gave him a chance to hone his bullshitting skills.

Something about this whole enterprise feels a little off. The Last Stand is drive-in movie material released in the dead of winter. Bad move, Lionsgate. It doesn’t help that movie violence and gun control issues are hot topics right now, making folks more likely to see a Jessica Chastain movie rather than an aging action star looking for a comeback.

Mediocre movie aside, it’s good to see Arnold back on the big screen in a central role. Next time out, I’m hoping the movie is a little better.