CONTAINS SPOILERS AND DOUBTLESS HUGELY ILL-INFORMED BOX-OFFICE ANALYSIS
He always said he'd be back, and he is! The prevailing mystery is not why the film has tanked at the box office (the first lead role in ten years from the iconic star of The Terminator, Predator and Conan The Barbarian - how could it fail?) but why Arnold Schwarzenegger elected to return to the action movie with something so silly, overblown and absurd. It's throwaway stuff: certainly enjoyable, some of the action sequences are decently handled and there's fun to be had, but on the Big Arnie Stomp scale we're closer to another Raw Deal than another Total Recall. But tanked it has: my nearest nine-screener has dropped it after only a week while even the miserable Texas Chainsaw managed two. Possibly audiences stayed away because they're just no longer interested in Schwarzenegger action films: he's been away too long and a generation of young cinemagoers have come and gone without seeing him in anything except cameos and injokes. At 65, he's doesn't just look like an old man, he moves like an old man and perhaps, like both Connery and Moore with their later Bond films, there comes a point where perhaps he should have retired gracefully. He more or less gets away with it, but I wouldn't want to see him do it again in another ten years.
Essentially The Last Stand is Arnie bellowing "You shall not pass!" at a scummy Hispanic drug lord. Evil Cortez escapes from his transport to Death Row and makes a break for the Mexican border in a stolen Corvette that can do 200 mph. While Forest Whitaker's FBI agent and the SWAT teams bumble around being outwitted and/or massacred by Cortez and his goons, backwoods Arizona Sheriff Owens (formerly a top LAPD narcotics agent) and his ragtag hick deputies block off the main street of the uneventful small town, conveniently deserted as most of the civilians are away at a football game, to stop him reaching foreign and therefore safe soil.
My personal and almost certainly wrong theory as to the film's public failure doesn't have anything to do with Arnie, who does his thing perfectly well, if a little creakily (the script does acknowledge the character's advancing years). Rather it's to do with the "comedy relief" provided by Johnny Knoxville as an imbecile with a frankly unsettling love of guns. Given the ongoing debate over gun control and the intractably difficult question of whether obvious drooling halfwits should be allowed access to enough firearms to start a medium sized war (as enshrined in the Second Amendment), is it possible that audiences have decided this is maybe something that shouldn't be played for laughs?
Still, it's decent enough shooty bang bang entertainment for the most part as an undemanding, unambitious B-movie, almost a modern Western. It looks good (it's directed by Jee-Woon Kim, director of The Good The Bad The Weird and I Saw The Devil) and it's always nice to see big roles for Luis Guzman and Peter Stormare (as cowardly deputy and evil henchman respectively), and outside of Knoxville's gun obsession there are some solid laughs to be had, including some nice one-liners for Arnie. Which, oddly enough, don't include "I'll be back" (he does say "I'll be right back" at one point, which isn't the same thing at all). But he will.