The core storyline is pretty straightforward – starting with the bloody liberation of sadistic drug cartel head Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) from federal custody. Instead of attempting a quiet disappearance via private jet or a low-key border crossing, Cortez hops into the driver’s seat of a modified Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 for a mad (and violent) dash to Mexico. Unfortunately for Cortez, his flight from the law is set to take him through the local farming community of Sommerton Junction, and into the path of LAPD Tactical Forces Officer-turned-small town Sheriff, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger). As FBI agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) races to catchup with Cortez, Owens and his deputies – along with the help of local weirdo/gun enthusiast, Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) – scramble to stop the drug lord and his team of mercenaries from escaping across the Mexican border.
The Last Stand‘s setup is unapologetically formulaic, and as mentioned before, filled with plot holes that require a hefty dose of disbelief suspending. Any attempts to fill-out the relatively straightforward plot – supporting character arcs, villainous exposition, or an underdeveloped twist – speed past without consequence and occasionally distract from the pacing in the core storyline. The film doesn’t bother with deep or insightful drama; however, The Last Stand presents enough charming characters, clever filmmaking choices, and downright entertaining (sometimes gory) action set pieces for an enjoyable experience. The third act, especially, is full of crowd-pleasing shootouts and brawls that provide just as many surprises and humorous one-liners as there are bullet holes.
Part of the success is owed to a smart mix of side characters – both supporting roles and townsfolk bit parts. Onscreen, Noriega’s Cortez – coupled with that super-powered car – serves as a competent ‘force of nature’ antagonist, even if his overall character is relatively standard. Furthermore, the assembled Sommerton Junction force of Mike Figuerola (Luis Guzmán) and Sarah Torrance (Jaimie Alexander) - along with drunkard war veteran Frank Martinez (Rodrigo Santoro) – provides a good counter-balance to Schwarzenegger’s grumpy-but-honorable sheriff. Enjoying second-billing in the film’s marketing, Knoxville’s role as Dinkum isn’t that big, but his performance provides some of the more humorous moments. On its own, the sheer elation on Dinkum’s face while feeding bullets into a mini-gun is bound to help win-over at least a few cynics.