Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the big screen this month with his first lead part in a decade as the star of Kim Jee-Woon’s gun-totin’ action picture The Last Stand.
His last starring role was in 2003’s Terminator 3, made shortly before Arnie went into politics and became the “Governator” of California for eight years. Since then we’ve only seen him make cameo appearances in Around the World in 80 Days, The Expendables and The Expendables 2.
But while we British action junkies will have to wait until later this week to get the measure of The Last Stand, our American counterparts had the chance to see it over the weekend and reviews of the film have started appearing online.
So, how’s it going over with the critics?
Well, The Last Stand currently boasts a 57% “fresh” rating on review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com, and early assessments tend to agree that the movie is a solid ‘80s-style actioner packed with explosive set pieces, creative kills and wisecracking dialogue.
The general consensus is that genre fans will love the fillm, but if you’re not overly keen on hot lead and one-liners it probably isn’t for you.
No surprises there, but something more intriguing is the critics’ reaction to Arnie in the film. At 65 years old, has the erstwhile Conan the Barbarian still got what it takes?
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times seems to think so, though he concedes that Arnie’s advancing age is hard to ignore. In his review of The Last Stand, Roeper said that people “shouldn’t underestimate Arnold’s ability to get the job done”, but he also remarked: “At 65, Arnold in some ways resembles a cyborg more than ever.
“His skin is pulled back so tight, his eyes are mere slits; his shoulders are sloped with age but his arms are still huge. Schwarzenegger is still a formidable albeit self-deprecating presence onscreen.”
The Village Voice’s Scott Foundas expressed similar sentiments, saying: “[Arnie is]still sporting (at age 65) the kind of Charles Atlas brawn not much seen at the movies in the no-carb era, and [he’s] still able to deliver a catchphrase with deadpan savoir faire.”
However Scott Mendelson wasn’t quite as complimentary about Arnold in his review for The Huffington Post. He wrote: “It’s obvious that Schwarzenegger isn’t in peak form anymore, and much of his ‘action’ involves running up stairs or firing guns from a stationary position.
“But what could be a weakness becomes a strength, as the filmmakers now have no choice but to spread out the action highlights among the colorful supporting characters, and the film is much stronger for it.”
Writing in Time, Richard Corliss said that Arnie had achieved a sort of “granite gravitas” through “graceful ageing and the wonders of medical aesthetics,” which has left the Austrian Oak with a face “suitable for the Mount Rushmore of movie studs where he belongs.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy was largely complimentary about Schwarzenegger, but said that the actor might benefit from a move away from action roles in years to come. He wrote: “Looking leaner and rather more drawn than before, Schwarzenegger still conveys the old self-confident, humorous I-dare-you attitude toward his adversaries.
“He remains sufficiently powerful-looking to convincingly prevail in combat, but comedy might prove the most profitable direction for him to pursue in a general way in the coming years.”
Variety’s Justin Chang said that Arnie makes “a creaky but reasonably commercial comeback bid” with The Last Stand and opined that “when he’s not plowing his way through reams of semi-intelligible dialogue, [Schwarzenegger] proves he’s still capable of firing off a few rounds and pulling broken glass out of his leg.”
Though Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times was more damning in his assessment of Arnie’s role in The Last Stand. He said: “At 65, Mr. Schwarzenegger can no longer be expected to do it all.
“Here he plays the sheriff of a small town on the Mexico border, an ill-fitting role. Sorry, big guy, but making small talk with the locals at the diner just isn’t you.”
So while the US’s media outlets aren’t united in their praise for Arnie, action fans can perhaps take comfort in another remark Scott Mendelson made in his Huffington Post review. He said: “[The Last Stand] has more in common with the B-movie days of Commando than the mega-budget spectaculars like Total Recall.
“But it is very good at what it sets out to do, creating sympathetic and colorful characters and placing them in enjoyably staged action sequences that pays off our investment.”
Which, in this day and age, is exactly what Arnie’s fans want. Right?
The Last Stand’s out here on Thursday 24 January. Watch the trailer below: