Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 in Shit: The Last Stand

The Last Stand was the best movie of 2013.

I've never really watched all that many Schwarzenegger films; I've completely missed Predator and Conan and Total Recall. I have seen the Terminator films, and various assorted others, though many of them such a long time ago and in such contingent ways that I remember very little about them. Somehow it turned out that he starred in two of my favorite movies this year though.

I saw The Last Stand because it was fucking directed by Kim Jee-woon, obviously. I'm still kind of annoyed with myself that I haven't seen I Saw the Devil, and I certainly wouldn't mind watching A Bittersweet Life. A Tale of Two Sisters is one of the only movies that has legitimately scared me, and The Good, the Bad, the Weird just fucking blew me away. I seem to recall that people weren't super into this English language debut of Kim's, which I think had mostly to do with how muted his style was in comparison especially to The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Fuck all that though.

It's a movie where Schwarzenegger is old as fuck, a sheriff of a small border town who was kicked out of the police force in LA for, presumably, not being corrupt. It's got Johnny Knoxville mugging in really dull ways and Luis Guzmán being actually pretty funny, and then there are some other white people? I think one of them dies pretty early on which is cool.

There's a problem here; it has legitimately been like an entire year since I've seen this movie. More than anything else what stands out about it to me is the somatic reaction I had. I'm not really one for cheering a film on; I get hit by jump scares occasionally, but for the most part when I'm in a theater I'm likely just giggling. Whether that's at a shot I think is particularly neat or at something being just awful, it's for the most part the extent of how my body performatively reacts to whatever's on the screen.

But there's a scene in The Last Stand where Schwarzenegger tackles a dude off a roof (it might actually be through a second or third story window), and I legitimately sat very stiffly upright and covered my mouth with a fist and said "OH SHIT" much, much louder than I thought I could talk without actually yelling. It's kind of a funny reaction; the scene itself is clearly meant to be more in reference to the sort of scenes that were meant to elicit that sort of reaction than one itself. When it ends Schwarzenegger is on his back, hurt. He's no Terminator, even if he happens to look like one. It's not that it's played ironically, in the sense of a wink, but it does situate itself outside of itself, in a way that presumably works to undercut the intensity of that sort of affective response. But I'd never had that sort of affective response to a film before, so it was weird.

To be entirely honest, I don't know that there's much more to say than that. Kim is one of my favorite directors and it was a film that hit me in ways that I have never really been hit by a film before. I guess I could go into platitudes about how surprisingly fun it is, or dig it up and argue against the idea that Kim's cinematography is lacking compared to his other films. I don't think I'd really have my heart in that argument though; I do think it's not nearly the disappointment some reviewers made it out to be, but I can't really imagine making that sustained argument being anything other than a stretch. It's partially because that shit just doesn't matter for this film; a film heavily stylized like The Good, the Bad, the Weird starring Schwarzenegger might be cool if it existed, but it would need to be a very different film than this one, and for this one, the way that Kim works is kind of perfect.

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