“The Last Stand”
This movie is more filled with clichés than a political convention. But somehow it works, anyway. For a lot of reasons, some of which are a little surprising.
The biggest surprise is that when Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his dramatic return to the big screen, after years of hiatus as Governor of California, he’s actually still a pretty good actor. He plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of a very small, sleepy town in Arizona, near the Mexican border. Though Sheriff Owens has “been there done that” with the big-city police departments, including L.A. narcotics, now, in his “golden” years, he’s content to preside over a staff of inexperienced and bumbling deputies. (Yes, the main character sounds a lot like the Jesse Stone of Robert Parker’s novels, popularized by Tom Selleck in the television series.) The first scene finds him in the town coffee shop, greeting all the regular patrons (and the staff) by name, and taking particular interest in the suspicious-looking truckers he didn’t know. Though he’s on his day off, he finds two of his three deputies out fooling around with some illegal sawed-off firearm, just to see what kind of damage it would do to a hanging side of beef. You almost expect cow-tipping next.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the dark underbelly of Las Vegas, a heavily-armed FBI contingent, headed by Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) is guarding a manacled prisoner, a notorious convicted drug kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), as they transfer him to Death Row. But Cortez’ gang ambushes and overpowers the escort, and Cortez takes one of the agents, Ellen Richards (Genesis Rodriguez) hostage. And off he roars in a ZR1 Corvette that revs up to 200 mph. And Cortez is an experienced race car driver. He’s in communication with his henchmen by cell phone, who go before him destroying roadblocks and then building a portable assault bridge across a canyon to Mexico. And sure enough, the only one left standing in his way is our hero, Sheriff Owen, and his caricature staff: the stumbling nincompoop who wants adventure and gets more than he bargained for, the fat, funny Mexican-American with the heart of gold, the nerdy goofball with no fear, the takes-herself-too-seriously young woman who’s nervous about seeing any “real” action, and oh, yes, the town underachiever, currently in jail for “drunk and disorderly” but with loads of potential just waiting to be needed.
At first, of course, Agent Bannister just tells Sheriff Owens to stay out of the way. But once the S.W.A.T. team gets ambushed and waylaid, and one of the Sheriff’s deputies is seriously hurt in a firefight with the bandito’s advance men, our small-town Sheriff then swings into action, deputizing almost anybody who’s able-bodied, and even collects some real firepower from some zany locals who were patiently waiting for the apocalypse. Well, now it’s coming to town.
Yes, we have the predictable “showdown at the O.K. Corral”-type gunfight scenes, but we also have some moments of lightheartedness, and even pathos, and a little dramatic tension with the character development, that makes “The Last Stand” just a tad better than the typical shoot-‘em-up. Go Get “Em, Arnold.

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas