Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Last Stand."
The name above the title is Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the real star of "The Last Stand" is Jee-won Kim.
The South Korean director, whose work includes the elegantly vicious "I Saw the Devil," brings energy, speed and a playful sense of humor to "Stand."
In another director's hands, it's easy to imagine this seeming like any of the cookie-cutter Schwarzenegger movies from the '90s, and "Stand" does include a couple of his groan-worthy puns. But Kim combines elements of John Woo at his thrilling best and Wile E. Coyote at his looniest to come up with a crime drama that is sensational fun.
Schwarzenegger plays the sheriff of a sleepy Arizona town. Part of the game for us is trying to guess how he got there and why he's so suspiciously good with gang warfare. He goes on high alert when the FBI informs him a maniacal Mexican drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) has escaped from a Vegas jail and is headed toward Sleepyville.
That means lots of fancy car maneuvering in a vehicle Noriega takes up to 200 mph. The movie appears to have spent on cars what it saved on extras because there's virtually no one on the road or in Schwarzenegger's town. That car carnage is cross-cut with a couple of shootouts for Schwarzenegger and his posse of fresh-faced gunslingers.
The violent, energy-drink-fueled action in "The Last Stand" is crazy bordering on cartoonish, but Kim gives the film such a light touch that it's clear realism is the last thing on his mind. From the beginning, you can predict that the movie will end with Schwarzenegger and Noriega going mano-a-mano, and you also can predict who will win that grisly battle. But the fun is in watching how Kim gets us from Point A to Point Blank.
Movie critic Chris Hewitt can be reached at 651-228-5552 or follow him on twitter.com/ChrisHMovie.
"THE LAST STAND"
Rated: R, for strong bloody violence throughout and equally strong language
Should you go? It's bloody good. ***